Renee Brodin grew up in a big city but has lived on a farm in Moneta for years and about five years ago she made changes to her diet which included finding a way to get raw milk in Virginia which is harder that what you might think.
She says, “It was hard to get first of all I mean I think it would be easier to get moonshine than to get raw milk."
For some people it is just as illegal as moonshine to sell. In a documentary called Farmageddon Kristen Canty shows state and federal raids on farms across the country because the raw milk business is so strictly regulated in many states. She says, she produced the movie in part because she doesn't understand why we can eat all of the processed or fast food we want, but raw milk is illegal to sell in half the states across the U.S. including Virginia.
Renee Brodin lives in Moneta and has been drinking raw milk for the past five years, "In Virginia while it is not legal to sell it on a retail market or to go to the farmer and purchase it what we do is we own part of a dairy herd. So we bought into a dairy herd and so if you own the cow you can drink the milk."
She signed a seven page contract with a local dairy farmer in order to get raw milk, it isn't illegal because she owns stock in his dairy farm.
I tried raw milk and will admit I was nervous.. what's the difference? I just noticed that it's creamier than the pasteurized version I'm used to. She can give it to me, but if I bought it from her we both would be committing a crime.
Renee and her family have lived on this farm for more than 20 years they raise grass fed Icelandic sheep but she drives one hour to Roanoke each week to pick up raw milk from a local dairy farmer...
She says, "My friend Yvonne and I usually go together and make a day of it."
Yvonne Williamson is a breast cancer survivor and credits raw milk as a cure of sorts, “My sinus problems disappeared my sons asthma disappeared and my allergies disappeared. Ran out of raw milk would get pasteurized milk we woke up sinus problems headaches can't drink this stuff it made us feel ill."
Yvonne isn't the first to give this much credit to raw milk. Canty says it cured her son's allergies.
I talked to a food science expert at Virginia Tech and got a whole different view.
Dr. Renee Boyer, Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology assistant professor explains, "Objective science tells us that there really is no difference in the vitamin and protein content between raw milk and pasteurized milk."
Even still, Renee and Yvonne tote a cooler to Roanoke each week to a local store that serves as a drop off location for milk that is delivered by the dairy farmer they have a herd share contract with.
During the stop, we find Dick Dearing picking up his weekly supply from the same farmer, "I come here and I pick up three gallons a week."
Renee, Yvonne and Dick are three of dozens who go to these lengths for raw milk in our part of Virginia.
No matter where you get your milk, I have found raw milk is an emotionally charged issue and my research on the topic brought me here to Virginia Tech's Dairy Complex to find out more about its safety.
To try to get a better idea of why the regulations are so strict... remember I tried the milk.. and didn't get sick.. but that may not be the case for everyone...
Dr. Boyer compares raw milk to other potentially dangerous foods to consume, “You wouldn't consume raw beef you wouldn't consume raw poultry or raw eggs without cooking them and a lot of the same risk associated with those products is also associated with raw milk."
Dr. Bob James Virginia Tech Department of Dairy Science professor says, "I suspect a lot of the cow share people are diligent about it... but that still doesn't eliminate that risk and that is a risk that I am just not willing to take."
As for claims of raw milk's healing powers?
Dr. James says, "There are other very, very, very, minor ingredients you really don't know there is no research to show the impact of them on human health."
While one local raw milk dairy farmer talked to me over the phone, he didn't want to go on camera even with the raw milk exchange "protection" that comes with that lengthy contract he has with Renee. He just wasn't willing to risk talking to me about a product that people like Renee, Yvonne and Dick go to such great lengths to get.
I checked with The Virginia Department of Agriculture for more about those raids we saw in the Farmageddon documentary. I was told there have been no such raids in the commonwealth that come to mind.
The state inspects dairy farms, but the only time federal agents get involved is when they believe an organized network of dairy farmers is transporting raw milk across state lines or selling it over the internet illegally.
The scientists I talked say there are some people more susceptible to serious side effects from food borne illness that can come with raw milk: children, people with weak immune systems, the elderly and pregnant women.
Link to more about the Weston A Price Foundation taht Renee Brodin volunteers with and can provide information about obtaining Raw Milk in Virginia. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Link to more information about the potential dangers of Raw Milk from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Link to current research from CDC regarding Nonpasteurized Dairy Products and outbreaks associated with it.
Link to Kristen Canty's documentary Farmageddon.
Link to information from the Food and Drug Administration about regulating raw milk across the country.
Link to the Department of Dairy Science at Virginia Tech.