Brian Harville's farm in beautiful Tennessee offers raw Jersey milk cow-shares from their registered, purebred Jersey cows. The farm uses organic farming practises but are not certified. In the state of Tennessee raw milk sales are prohibited. However raw milk can be obtained by owning a share in the herd or by selling it labeled "for pet consumption only". Cow sharing is a private arrangement of ownership of the milk between farmer and consumer, with no middle man. Farmers can now also make milk products like butter, cream and cheeses.
Brian believes it is a matter of consumer choice and his farm benefits with more than 200 families getting unpasteurised, unprocessed milk from him weekly. He believes the farm's raw milk is safe but also admits that no food is a 100% safe. Raw milk is in the same category as oysters, it has to be handled correctly. He says that he is not required to test his milk by the state of Tennessee, but he has an ethical and moral duty to do so. They test the whole herd each year for TB, Brucellosis and Johne's disease as well as monthly milk quality tests. Every time the milk is bottled, coliform and standard plate count tests are done. In the five years, no one has claimed to have gotten sick from their milk.
The USA has 50 states and each has different raw milk laws. This means that in some states like California raw milk is a highly regulated industry and you can buy raw milk products in retail stores. In others like Wyoming with their Food Freedom Act there is no regulation on raw milk, with variations like herd shares or 'pet milk only' in others. See US raw milk map.
"We want this state to be one that is friendly to small, local farms. We are a group of like-minded people who feel that all Tennesseans should have access to fresh, unpasteurized milk if we so choose.
We feel strongly that small farmers should have the right to sell all their produce, including dairy, poultry, and beef RIGHT OFF THE FARM and without government interference."
Tennesseans for Raw Milk
Producing raw milk for human consumption is a different animal than producing it conventionally. There may be some unsafe operations who turn a blind eye for the sake of profit. With raw milk production it is important to know your farmer. Farmers like Brian has the support of organisations like the Tennesseans for Raw Milk group and there are many similar groups in the United States that support their farmers in the face of opposition from Health and Food Safety authorities. The group say on their website that the cow share law was a huge victory for the organisation.
Tennesseans for Raw Milk had been working diligently for 10 years to change the laws in the state.
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“To me it’s personal choice, and that’s all I’m asking. All I’m saying is: if you don’t want to eat it, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to touch it, you don’t have to. But don’t put out false numbers and put out fear tactics and threats and scare tactics to the general public, just because you don’t like it."