You’ve been hearing about the benefits of raw milk, however, you can’t seem to find it anywhere at your grocery store. When you ask about it, people tell you that it’s dangerous and even illegal. Maybe you’ve done your homework and determined that raw milk is the right choice for you, but you don’t know where to start looking.
If you’re facing this dilemma, then you’re in the right place! I’ve been there and I’ve done the hunting for you.
This comprehensive article will guide you through identifying the legality of raw milk in your state, how to find a local farm, and what you need to consider to ensure that you’re consuming a safe product.
Let’s jump right in!
What Is Raw Milk?
Raw milk is simply milk in its unadulterated form; straight from the cow. This means that the milk is not pasteurized (the processes of heating milk to 161 degrees), nor homogenized (the process of distributing the fat evenly throughout the product).
Why Is Raw Milk So Hard to Find?
This is the golden question and the heart of this article.
Raw milk is something that humans have been drinking and thriving on for 6,000 years, but then something changed in the past century…
- Towns rapidly grew into cities.
- Food practices became industrialized.
- Cows were moved from fresh pasture on small farms to crowded indoor pens
- Milk was transported over long distances with varying temperatures
- Dairy practices got sloppy
- Udder infections went unnoticed
- Rodents were common
- Feces contaminated the milk
The resulting milk was labeled as “dangerous,” so in 1917 pasteurization was introduced in the United States to provide “safe” milk. By 1947, 90% of the milk sold in large cities was pasteurized and then pasteurization became mandated in 1987 by the FDA for the interstate sale of milk.
Many states even made the sale of raw milk for human consumption illegal.
Recently, there has been a rebirth in the consumption of raw milk that comes from small farms with grass-fed cows. Individuals are finding that they can’t tolerate grocery store milk and asking why.
Heating milk to high temperatures kills potential pathogens, but it also kills the good stuff. The resulting milk product is now considered a “dead food.”
What gets killed off during pasteurization?
- Beneficial bacteria that protects the milk from contamination
- Diverse probiotics that support gut health
- Over 60 functional enzymes that aid in digestion and absorption, including lactase!
- IgA/IgG Immunoglobulins
Should I drink raw milk?
I could talk about this topic for DAYS, but, unfortunately, this question is beyond this article.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already decided that drinking raw milk is right for you and you just need some help finding the dang stuff! If you’re still on the fence, I’d encourage you to read more about it here.
Alright, in order to find raw milk, we first need to figure out if it’s even legal in your state…
Is Raw Milk Legal in My State?
While the FDA bans the interstate sale of raw milk throughout the United States, each state is allowed to make their own laws on local raw milk sales.
There are 6 different legal statuses:
- Raw milk can be sold at retail stores
- Raw milk can only be sold directly on the farm, at farmer’s markets or via delivery
- Raw milk can only be sold via cow shares
- Raw milk can only be sold for pet consumption
- Raw milk sales of any kind are illegal (only 1 state: Nevada)
- Other (goat milk only, herd size limits, etc.)
Look up your state here in the Raw Milk Legal Map to see what laws are in place regarding the sale of raw milk.
Where Can I Find Raw Milk Near Me?
Ok, so you’ve used the Raw Milk Legal Map to identify your state laws. Now, you need to actually track it down. We’ll be discussing how to go about this for the following 3 categories:
- Retail stores
- Direct farm sales
- Herd shares.
If raw milk sales are prohibited in your state, skip to the next section to see out what other options you have!
Raw milk at retail stores
If this is the legal status in your state, then you’re probably not even reading this! That’s because raw milk is available on the shelf at your grocery store. No need to hunt around or drive to local farms, unless you want to.
Raw milk via direct farm-sales only
This is the legal status of raw milk in my home state of Minnesota, so I am very familiar with the process. Each state has slight variations in their raw milk laws, however, so make sure to read those details at the bottom of this site.
The main theme for the farm-sales only category is that you will need to drive directly to the farm to pick up the raw milk yourself, or find a delivery CSA or Farmers Market that offers raw milk from local farms.
Local farm pick-up
If you’re willing to drive to the farm directly, that is the best option in my opinion. That way you can check out the health of the animals and cleanliness of the facility first-hand. You also get to know your farmer and develop that connection to where your food comes from.
To find a raw milk farm near you, click this link to be directed to the Raw Milk Finder. In Minnesota, there are 30 farms listed! Get Raw Milk is a second website you can use as well, however the list isn’t quite as extensive.
You may discover that many of the farms are a long drive from your home, especially if you live in the city. In this case, I recommend partnering with friends or neighbors and take turns doing the weekly “milk run.” You might be surprised by how many people are interested once you start asking around!
Finding a CSA that offers raw milk deliveries is also an option if you simply can’t make it out to the farm. CSA options will vary greatly depending on your state, but one that I’ve personally had good success with is Farm Match.
Farm Match is a collection of many small farms that offer their products. Simply enter your zip code and shop the available CSAs that come up. Once you have selected the CSA that you want to partner with, you can start shopping! Some offer home deliveries, where others utilize pick-up locations (often a volunteer’s home). Start shopping now!
The third option for obtaining raw milk is visiting your local farmer’s market. This is a great opportunity to buy fresh produce and goods from your local farmers. However, they are often seasonal so double check the Farmers Market calendar before you head out the door.
To find one near you, visit one of these websites:
Raw milk via cow shares only
This arrangement means that the consumer purchases their “share” of a milk cow along with their share of the monthly expenses. By owning a portion of the cow, a portion of the milk now belongs to you!
Therefore, the dairy farm is not selling the milk to you; instead, you are receiving milk from your own cow.
If this is the case in your state, then use The Raw Milk Finder to locate one near you!
Raw Milk Is Illegal in My State
If you can’t obtain raw milk in your state, don’t worry! You still have some options when it comes to finding the best quality milk available.
There are two factors that I would consider when deciding on what milk to drink: local & grass-fed.
Local, small farms
Small, family-run dairies are becoming extinct. In 1964, there were 1.1 million dairy farms in the US. Today, there are only 30,000-35,000. Supporting your local farmers is so important and helps boost your local economy!
If you buy local, that typically means that you’re getting a fresher product that hasn’t been transported hundreds (if not thousands) of miles, too!
This one is absolutely huge. It’s not surprising that cows who are stuffed in a building and only fed grain are going to produce milk that’s drastically different from cows who are out on pasture all day eating greens like they were designed to do. If you’ve had grass-fed milk or butter before, you’ve probably noticed the rich yellow tint to it.
That’s a nutrition difference you can see.
Milk from grass-fed cows has been shown to have higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory) and lower levels of omega 6 fatty acids (pro-inflammatory). One study found the ratio to be 1:1, which is optimal for health! This same study discovered that conventional milk has an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of nearly 6:1.
Safety Checklist For Evaluating Raw Milk Farms
We’ve made it to the last step! Now that you’ve located your source for raw milk, it’s a good idea to do your homework before you take that first sip.
While raw milk can be a safe and nourishing beverage for you and your family to consume, there can also be serious health risks if that milk was not produced and handled properly.
Use this checklist for obtaining low-risk raw milk:
- Do the animals look healthy (udders, coat, bright eyes)?
- Ask the farmer if their milk is properly chilled (38-40 degrees within 45-60 min)
- Are the cows actually out in pasture (look for where the cows are when you visit the farm)?
- Does the milking area look clean?
- Ask for a tour of the farm
- Find them on social media so that you can get to know them better and watch their farm practices
- Ask around and see where your neighbors are getting their raw milk. A good reference is always best.
- Pay attention to how long the milk is good for after you purchase (should last close to 2 weeks)
- When in doubt, throw it out. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t risk it!
Congratulations! We’ve discussed the controversial history behind raw milk and why it’s so hard to find in today’s world. You also now know the legal status of raw milk in your state and how to get your hands on some: grocery store, direct from the farm or CSA, or via a cow share. If raw milk for human consumption is currently illegal in your state, obtaining grass-fed milk from a local farm is a close second!
You are now ready to head out there and grab some nourishing raw milk.
Don’t forget your checklist and make sure to check out my quiche recipe (it calls for a splash of delicous milk!)
Achieve Your Best Harvest Yet!
I’ve been using my Garden Growing Guide for years and I know that you’ll love it, too. It’s fully customizable to your growing zone and can be printed or used digitally. Happy Gardening!