Raw dairy debate flows on

By: Kelly Asmuth Email
By: Kelly Asmuth Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The raw dairy debate has kicked into action once again. Health officials say cow share farms aren't allowed to provide unpasteurized products like butter and yogurt.

Getting milk straight from the cow is coveted by an estimated 15,000 people in Colorado. "The enzymes are more available. The minerals are more available," says Scott Freeman, owner of the Kinikin Corner Diary in Montrose.

The fresh flavor is relished by the dairy's 200 customers, who own their cows. Freeman also churns out raw butter, yogurt and cream, just like more than half of the raw dairies in the state.

"They're all aware of risks, and educated. They say they'd rather have this milk than factory produced milk," says George Burkhardt, a partner at Kinikin Corner Dairy.

Sixty dairies in Colorado cater to the people who'd rather pass on the pasteurization. Now state health officials are trying to fence out farms from making other raw products. "The Department's position is that we can't guarantee the safety of the consumption of raw milk. It should be pasteurized before it's consumed," says Patti Klocker, assistant director of the Consumer Product Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"There have been outbreaks attributed to pasteurized milk, so it happens in all foods, but raw milk is a lightening rod for controversy on this," counters Freeman.

Regulators insist Colorado's law does not permit the other products. Dairy farmers say they're not being stubborn cows, since the law is unclear, and customers willingly sign a contract. "I feel that we are probably OK to do these other items under this service contract. But it is a gray area and it needs to be defined," says Freeman.

"I think that our customers should have the choice to buy and consume any of our products that they want to," says Burkhardt. A choice that dairy farmers are now legally defending once again. "I think it'll be a fairly simple process. We just need to include raw milk products in the law that's there," says Freeman.

Meantime, dairy farmers hope part of their business won't be soured.

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