Raw Milk is Getting a Raw Deal in California

by Jordan Rubin
A couple of weeks into the Perfect Weight America Tour, we stopped at Organic Pastures Dairy Company located in the heart of the California’s Central Valley. Known as the Golden State’s top agricultural-producing region, the Central Valley is often called “the nation’s salad bowl” for the great array of fruits and vegetables grown in its fertile soil.

The fertile soil and pastureland is also home to one of the largest and best producers of raw dairy in the United States—Organic Pastures Dairy Company. I’ve been touting Organic Pastures for a long time, ever since I discovered them while I lived in San Diego back in the 1990s trying to get healthy. Back then, I developed a huge urge to drink raw cream, so I would go to Henry’s Farmers Market and buy a pint of Organic Pastures raw cream and mix it with carrot juice. I felt so good after consuming that treat.

The owner of Organic Pastures is Mark McAfee, who deserves sainthood for how he’s persevered with the business of producing organic dairy products. I’ve gotten to know Mark over the years, and I’ve interviewed him several times for my TV show, Extraordinary Health. When I was putting together the California part of my Perfect Weight America Tour, I knew that a stop at Organic Pastures dairy was a must.

When we arrived in Fresno, though, the Central Valley was being slammed by a series of storms that dropped a ton of rain in the valley and more than 10 feet of snow in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. I was scheduled to talk that night inside an airplane hanger on Mark’s property—at least, that’s what it looked like to me. Then I learned that Organic Pastures has a dirt airstrip just west of the McAfee home, and folks actually fly in to pick up their purchases of raw milk, colostrum, kefir, and cheese from cows that munch the dewy grass in his pesticide-free fields. Mark jokes that his “airport” has no other services than organic raw milk sales, dairy tours, warm handshakes, and hugs. And when you leave, you don’t have to pass through an X-ray machine or get patted down by TSA security!

Although the weather was horrible, we had about 100 show up, some as far away as Los Angeles, although I don’t think they flew in. Inside the hanger, Organic Pastures set out samples of chocolate raw colostrum known as Chocoleche, brownies, cookies, and organic oranges from a local farm. I found some raw granola with nuts and seeds and dates and pounded it.

Afterward, everyone found a place to sit. It seems that Mark and his team had stacked bales of hay and created a little “set” for my talk, which was filmed by my crew. After saying a few words, I brought Mark up and we discussed the state of raw milk. Heavy on Mark’s mind was a new California state law, AB 1735, that went into effect on January 1.

The new law, Mark said, didn’t actually ban raw milk, but it did eliminate the ability to effectively produce raw milk by making the standards impossible to comply with. He and another dairy farmer filed a lawsuit on behalf of the estimated 40,000 California consumers of raw milk, saying that the standards were unreasonable and if enforced, dairies like his will be shut down. That would be a shame because 22 states do not allow the sales of raw milk, including my home state of Florida. Because of that, I routinely have had Organic Pastures ship me raw colostrum that I use in infant and baby formula, and there are numerous raw products that I enjoy for myself.

Raw milk has some real fans besides myself, and I felt the fervor that night at the Organic Pastures ranch. Shortly after my visit, Mark and more than 700 people gathered at a California Assembly Agriculture Committee meeting in Sacramento to testify against AB 1735. As a result of the hearing, the Agriculture Committee unanimously passed AB 1604, a compromise legislation that would stop all coliform testing for six months and allow an achievable and fair coliform count that satisfies all parties in opposition. Mark came away saying that AB 1604 is a deal he can live with. Otherwise, raw milk availability would have become subject to the uncertainties of litigation, a risk that raw milk producers like him were unwilling to take.

I believe raw dairy was one of the major reasons why I got better in San Diego, and I’m sure that adding the raw colostrum to our infant and baby formula is a major reason why our children are growing up so healthy. Here’s hoping that Mark and raw milk supporters can get AB 1604 passed when it goes before the complete California legislature sometime soon.