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Environmental Studies


  What is pasteurization?
  Pasteurization issues

Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Raw Milk

Local Economies, Small Farms and consumer Choice

Who is doing the research and who gets to decide?
    Decision makers and          funding
    Raw Milk Research
    Ethical Implications

References & Links

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Cow in fieldfarm

Local Economies, Small Farms, and Consumer Choice

     The protection of the rights of small farms is critical to maintaining local economies and food production.  As scholar and writer Wendell Berry writes, protecting the local economy allows consumers to have an “influence over the kind and quality of their food, and to preserve land and enhance the local landscapes. They want to give everybody in the local community a direct, long-term interest in the prosperity, health, and beauty of their homeland” (Berry, 2001). Purchasing local food such as raw milk cheese can be seen as an assertion by locals that they have confidence in their own communities; buying locally is seen as a counter to globalized, large-scale farms.

      Because cleanliness is critical, raw milk is often a more practical endeavor on a small farm; this kind of production tends to be linked to local economies.  Many state legislatures only permit the purchase of raw milk in “incidental” sales. This means that the raw milk is purchased directly from the farmer, thus facilitating small networks, and local connections. 

      Pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization are measures for germ eradication that are important for large farms that are unable to take good care of their cows and their milk treatment.  Yet processing need not be a one-size-fits all approach. A common concern among small farmers is that regulation policy is seen as inflexible. Small farms tend to have a higher likelihood of having safe policies, better ability to monitor animals, and stronger vigilance to implement safety procedures; thus, these farmers should not have to comply with the same regulations as large-scale farms.  Imagine an elementary school teacher being told to approach class lessons in the same way for a class of five students and a class of one hundred students.  Approaches must change on different scales, because of resources, abilities for vigilance and attentiveness, and different types of problems that occur in larger settings.
       This rootedness of small farms within local interests is a critical background to the local foods movement and the debate surrounding food policy.  Small farmers interested in restoring local rural communities “want to see raw-milk cheese become a cornerstone of a ‘civic agriculture’” (Lyson 2004 as written in Paxon, 2008).
      Civic agriculture is a an important component of the raw milk cheese debate.  It "embodies a commitment to developing and strengthening an economically, environmental, and socially sustainable agriculture and food production system that relies on local resources and serves local markets and consumers” (Lyson, p. 102, 2004). Large farms—the kind that need to pasteurize—are often unable to provide this community link and investment because they’re catering to wider markets and consumers.  Small farms are able to connect to their neighbors, and offer a stronger, engagement within the community.

The Milkman represents days of local economies and close producer-consumer relationships

Small Scale Dairy

Small scale, localized agriculture lies at the heart of the raw milk cheese movement

Last updated:  5/06/10


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