Consumers are demanding a more organic moo in their milk these days, and it’s driving up the cost of milk.
According to the New York Times, 2011 saw a 17% increase in whole organic milk. What’s driving the cost up isn’t a shortage of milk in this higher demand. Rather, it’s a decreased profit going to the farmers who produce the organic milk. With the cost of hay and grain going up (two main feeds for raising organic dairy cows), farmers are biting the extra costs it’s now taking to produce organic milk. Take into account the extra costs of organic certification, as well as the additional physical labor of organic production, and you have one expensive cup of milk.
Critics are concerned that the higher price of organic milk will lead to so-called “shortages” in the marketplace, but it sounds like the only shortage is the change going into farmers’ pockets. If they can’t afford to produce organic milk, there won’t be as much available at the market for us to buy.
Meanwhile, Californians are even more interested in getting their hands on raw, unpasteurized milk. The touted benefits of raw milk include boosting the immune system and decreasing allergies of all kinds. In addition, there’s much speculation that pasteurized milk is even more dangerous to drink than raw milk, since all of the bacteria—including the beneficial bacteria—have been killed off, leaving a “dead” milk that starts to go rancid as soon as it leaves the factory.
The government is less than enthused to allow raw milk into the marketplace. Only 11 states in the country can legally sell raw milk in retail stores, and California is not surprisingly one of them. Local raw dairy producers, Organic Pastures, recently came under fire by the California Department of Food and Agriculture for being linked to an E. coli breakout in a small group of children. The ban, just lifted in late December, stirred up heated debates about making raw milk a legal shopping item available for all consumers to buy as they wish.
While not a leading political issue, libertarian Ron Paul has signed on to supporting the legalization of raw milk. “I would like to restore your right to drink raw milk anytime you like!” he recently touted at a campaign rally.
While prices of organic milk continue to rise, and the debate to legalize raw milk carries on, California consumers can learn more about the legality and possible benefits of raw milk at the California Raw Milk Association.