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Resilient farmers in USA turn to raw milk to sustain their operations amid challenges

USA 11.06.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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When a dairy cow as large as a concert piano fell on Layne Klein’s leg about 20 years ago, he found himself with ample time to reflect on the future of his family farm. Faced with financial pressures and fluctuating milk prices, Klein made a pivotal decision to scale down and pivot towards raw milk production.
Resilient farmers in USA turn to raw milk to sustain their operations amid challenges

Klein, who suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle in the accident, acquired a Pennsylvania raw milk license for Klein Farms in Easton. Since 2004, he has been selling gourmet raw milk cheese and raw milk, a move he credits with saving the farm.

"Raw milk enthusiasts describe its flavor as 'grassy' and 'creamier,'" Klein explained. Despite its higher cost, he believes the product's quality justifies the price. "If you do it correctly, it’s a fantastic product," he added.

However, raw milk remains a controversial topic in Pennsylvania and beyond. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration warns that raw milk can harbor dangerous germs, posing serious health risks. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against consuming unpasteurized milk, citing potential health hazards.

Despite these warnings, raw milk has its devoted followers. Across the U.S., more states are considering loosening restrictions on raw milk production and sales. In Pennsylvania, where raw milk sales require a license and testing, state Rep. Dave Zimmerman recently introduced a bill to expand the sale of raw milk products to include yogurt and ice cream.

Zimmerman highlighted a growing national trend, particularly among younger generations, favoring natural and organic products with minimal processing. "What I want is to keep farmers in business, especially small dairies, by letting them sell more raw products," he said.

In New Jersey, agricultural leaders have shown a willingness to discuss raw milk for human consumption, although it is currently only legal for use in pet food.

Pennsylvania boasts nearly 5,000 dairy farms, with 115 holding raw milk permits. These permit holders undergo rigorous health and safety inspections, and their products are tested biannually for pathogens.

At Klein Farms, where Layne Klein sells about 600 to 650 gallons of raw milk weekly, he remains confident in the safety and quality of his products. "There was a time when people milked cows by hand over open buckets and there was no refrigeration," he said. "It’s a different time. I pride myself on having clean cows."

As discussions about raw milk regulations continue, Klein’s experience underscores the potential for raw milk to sustain small dairy operations amid evolving market conditions and consumer preferences.

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