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Raw milk - the benefits and laws in your state

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Most homesteaders own a milk-producing mammal of some kind, be it a goat, cow or perhaps something more exotic - buffalo mozzarella anyone?

Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized

But why raw milk? This excerpt is from a brochure produced by The Campaign for Raw Milk, explaining the benefits of raw milk over its pasteurized counterpart:

Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection. And pasteurization does not always kill the bacteria for Johne’s disease suspected of causing Crohn’s disease in humans with which most confinement cows are infected. Much commercial milk is now ultra-pasteurized to get rid of heat-resistant bacteria and give it a longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurization is a violent process that takes milk from a chilled temperature to above the boiling point in less than two seconds. Clean raw milk from certified healthy cows is available commercially in several states and may be bought directly from the farm in many more. (Sources are listed on

Raw milk laws

It is legal throughout the United States for people to drink the milk from an animal which they own and milk themselves, but depending on your location, the legalities of raw milk may differ. Be sure to research thoroughly the laws where you live before offering raw milk for sale, as the fines and consequences can be severe.

In no state is it illegal to purchase, possess or consume raw milk.

Options for selling raw milk are:

  • sale at store - legal in 10 states
  • sale from farm - legal in 15 states
  • sale for pet consumption only - legal in four states
  • herdshares / cow sharing - legal in four states

In six states, there is no specific laws on herdshares.

A full and detailed state by state listing of raw milk laws can be found here. Alternatively, an interactive color-coded map can be found here.

The actual legislation and wording of the state laws can be found here.

Don't think that raw milk stops at milk; whether you have your own backyard dairy animal for your own use or milk sales, or you buy your milk through another farm, herdshare or outlet, milk is just the beginning of the journey. Turn the excess into cheese, yoghurt or ice cream, or experiment with kefir and other cultured products.

Katy Light has a 44 acre homestead in North GA, where she raises goats, bunnies and chickens. Find her blog at She can be reached at



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