FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Raw milk is getting sour treatment lately. There have been at least five outbreaks in the U.S. of campylobacteriosis, a bacterial infection linked to raw milk.
In Georgia, the law dictates that farmers can sell raw milk — but only for animal consumption.
Raw milk is consumed in countries outside of the United States all the time. And within the U.S., the raw milk movement is trying to showcase the benefits. These benefits can include adding more protein, good carbohydrates and fats to someone’s diet, as well as vitamins and minerals.
However, the negative aspects get all the attention, including the national case of an Amish dairy farmer, Vernon Hershberger, who was acquitted in Wisconsin May 25 on three of four criminal charges, which included operating an unlicensed retail store that sold raw milk.
Raw milk, or unpasteurized milk, is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This is amplified by news reports of contaminated raw milk and food poisoning.
Milk pasteurization became a common practice in 1886 by German agricultural chemist Franz von Soxhlet.
But a strong proponent of unpasteurized milk is the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Celeste Skouscn, of Johns Creek, volunteers for the foundation and drinks raw milk herself.
Skouscn had to do some research to find a farmer, but she eventually got in contact with a farmer who sells raw milk and other raw products around the Atlanta area. She continues to buy raw products from the same farmer.
Locally, the Rockmart, Ga.-based Carlton Farms visits nine metro Atlanta areas weekly to sell locally grown food, meat and raw milk for “pet consumption.”
In Cumming, the mobile market stops each Wednesday at a local church, Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, 302 Pilgrim Mill Road, and averages about 40 customers. On Thursday mornings, consumers line up at Fish Family Chiropractic, 455 West Crossville Road in Roswell.
Chad Carlton, co-owner of Carlton Farms, understands that everyone is busy and doesn’t have the time to stop at farmers markets. His family sells products to customers who order the night before. This ensures nothing goes to waste.
As a seller of local products, Carlton understands that while raw milk is his top seller, he has to respect the law and all the milk he sells has a label stating it is not for human consumption.
The law doesn’t stop Skouscn and several other people from buying the raw milk for personal consumption. Skouscn interprets the law as a restriction on sellers, not buyers and the law doesn’t address what consumers do with it.
“It’s not fun to buy milk that has a big skull and crossbones on it. But from a practical standpoint, I know it’s a super healthy food and it’s wonderful for my family,” Skouscn said. “For me, the benefits far outweigh the risks.”
Because of the bad reputation raw milk gets, two Forsyth County farmers contacted for this story did not want their names used.
Farmer No. 1 prefers to sell raw goat milk to his customers because he believes it’s the best milk for children to consume, besides human milk.
A bigger problem, according to Farmer No. 1, is fast food.
“If you think about how unhealthy so many of our food choices are that are legal and approved with the Food and Drug Administration, and how many people die as a result of heart disease, they come from all this unhealthy fried food,” said Farmer No. 1. “We have a lot of people dying from bad food in this country, yet fresh, raw and high quality food is bad.”
The hazard of cross contamination is one reason why another Forsyth farmer, Farmer No. 2, makes sure her customers understand the label on her milk that states it is not for human consumption.
“What people do with it when they take it home is up to them,” said Farmer No. 2. “I look at it as if someone were to go to the store to buy a bottle of bleach and when you get home if you want to consume it, that’s up to you.”