KENTUCKY bill would allow 'cow sharing' for raw milk
Posted: February 6th, 2012 - 4:33pm
FRANKFORT — Families who want to drink fresh raw milk without buying their own dairy herds are backing a bill to sanction "cow sharing."
The practice lets people buy into a herd and share the resulting milk, cheese and other dairy products. Proponents say raw milk is more nutritious and delicious.
"Right now, shared ownership isn't illegal, but it is not recognized," said John-Mark Hack of Marskbury Farm Market in Lancaster, who testified in favor of the bill before the Senate Agriculture Committee last month.
Hack said 80 or 90 Lexington families might share ownership in a herd to get access to fresh dairy products. "This would legitimize those arrangements," he said.
Sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, the legislation was sent to the Senate floor, but a vote was delayed. Schickel said last week that he wanted to give more farm groups a chance to air concerns but said he's hopeful that a comfort level can be reached that will allow a vote this week.
"These are food-liberty issues," Schickel said. "There's a whole movement in Kentucky and around the country for people to eat healthy and get closer to the source of their food."
Opponents say the bill could be dangerous.
"This is a step closer to the legitimizing the sale of raw milk to consumers, which we're against," said Maury Cox, executive director of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council.
While Cox's group doesn't see anything wrong with herd-sharing partnerships, they are worried this could lead to selling unpasteurized milk.
"If you have several people in cow shares, you have to ask, is this a loophole? Is this an effort to have no regulatory oversight in the process to consumers?" he said.
Drinking unpasteurized milk could be dangerous, especially for children and the elderly, Cox said, pointing to the potential for tuberculosis, brucellosis, E. coli and salmonella contamination. A recent outbreak of campylobacter illness that sickened at least 38 people in four states has been linked to raw milk sold from a Pennsylvania dairy.
Kentucky Department of Public Health regulations prohibit the sale of milk that has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization involves heating milk to kill dangerous bacteria.
But raw-milk advocate Sally O'Boyle of Lexington said the milk is no more dangerous than cantaloupe or spinach, both of which have been linked to outbreaks of food-borne illness. Raw-milk sales are legal in several states, she said.