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“This is a new age for raw milk. We must stand strong. Whether you have a cow share with three cows or a pasture-based 300-cow herd feeding thousands of people every week in retail, you need standards and a plan for safety and success. RAWMI will be the place to make this happen.”

So spoke Mark McAfee, president and chairman of Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI). The institute has admirably lofty goals and big ideas. RAWMI’s mission statement: “The mission of the Raw Milk Institute is to improve human health and the immune system by training and mentoring farmers; educating consumers; establishing national raw milk guidelines; outreach to farmers, consumers, regulators, universities, the media, and other groups; listing producers, and supporting research.”

The need is certainly there and the time seems to be right for its success.

With a board of directors and advisory council that reads like a stellar Who’s Who in the galaxy of raw milk advocacy (Dr. Cat Berge, Bill Anderson, Dr. Ted Beals, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Kristin Canty, Mary Falk, Sally Fallon Morell, Dr. David Getoff, David Gumpert, Dr. Joseph Heckman, Randy Jonsson, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Paul Miller, Michael Schmidt, Dr. Ron Schmidt, Edwin Shank, Charlotte Smith, Elaina Luther, Scott Trautman), the combined experience and knowledge is certain to benefit the four groups RAWMI seeks to assist: consumers, farmers, legislators and regulators.

Mark McAfee explains the goals of RAWMI to a group of visitors to the RAWMI Headquarters

For consumers looking for raw milk, RAWMI can connect consumers with farmers, provide education about what to look for in raw milk providers, and show current bacteria counts of different dairies.

Consumers, board members and officers discuss the benefits of RAWMI

For farmers, RAWMI provides a wealth of educational opportunities in their Farmer Training Program; a way to connect with consumers—and a way to show their good track record. RAWMI can be a farmer’s partner in food safety, raw milk research and consumer education.

Mark explains plans for a RAWMI educational center

For legislators, RAWMI has the insight, the plans, the technology and track record to be able to manage raw milk effectively as raw milk begins to re-enter the market place. RAWMI understands proper conditions, cleanliness, bacteria testing and food safety plans. According to their Web site, “It will be the change of laws that favor farmers and consumers over processors’ interests that will ultimately serve our citizens.”

For regulators, RAWMI can show data that includes bacteria test results from listed farmers. The data shows that when a farmer uses checklists, a food safety plan that assures certain conditions prevail at his farm and tests the final products, the result is a consistently safe raw milk product. RAWMI promises a management of risk and a dramatic reduction of risk.

There needs to be a clear distinction between milk that is meant to be consumed raw and raw milk that is meant to be pasteurized. Raw milk appropriate for human consumption comes from healthy, pastured, grass-fed cows, is carefully managed under food safety plans and advanced testing protocols, and is never combined with other milks. The other—well, it doesn’t matter because it will be mixed in with milk from countless other farms and then processed. This removes liability and personal responsibility for the safety of the milk from the farmers, thereby eliminating the incentive for maintaining quality standards.

RAWMI adds that “the CDC does not have one recorded death from consumption of raw milk since beginning its recording of illness data in 1973. At least 80 deaths have been recorded from pasteurized milk (if the Jalisco pasteurized cheese incident is included). More than 422,000 illnesses are listed under pasteurized milk at the CDC since 1973, but only 1100 are recorded under raw milk.”

Although there is no guarantee of absolute safety for any food, (and the statistics show favorable numbers for raw milk when compared to other foods), imagine how many of those illnesses could have been avoided if such standards had been followed. Yes, the time is right for an organization like RAWMI—an organization with the potential to change lives for the better on so many levels by providing responsible leadership in all areas relating to raw milk.

Until next time~