Institute president discusses raw milk safety standards

Lauren Steinheimer
Raw Milk Institute President Mark McAfee lecturing on raw milk during an event at Copeland Family Farm Saturday, July 30. Ethel the cow is also pictured.

The family cow, which at one time served as the village grocery store, has re-emerged in recent years as a hot topic in food policy across the nation. The debate over raw, or unpasteurized, milk is controversial: advocates praise it as a panacea for a variety of health maladies, while others express concerns about harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.

Mark McAfee, President of the Raw Milk Institute and CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy, visited Copeland Family Farm in Grenada July 30 to share information and answer questions about raw milk. McAfee has lectured on raw milk at Stanford Medical School in California, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and in 30 states across the country.

California is one of only 13 US states that allows retail sales of raw milk products in stores. Eight other states allow raw milk to be sold only at the farm on which the cows are raised, according to

“RAWMI was created with the idea of making milk safe, to build a community of support around raw milk standards and to establish a track record of excellence in dairy production,” McAfee said.

In addition to educational outreach and raw milk advocacy, RAWMI formed a set of common standards to be met and adhered to by listed farms. The standards include guidelines on sanitization, requirements for routine lab testing and a standard protocol for risk mitigation. Each farm also needs a customized food safety plan before getting listed.

Dusty Copeland said she and husband Bob needed two years of intensive auditing to get listed. “I think it was a really critical thing to do since raw milk can be dangerous if not handled properly,” she said.

From a national total of 11 raw milk producers listed with RAWMI, two are located in Siskiyou County: The Copelands in Grenada and Kid Creek Pastures in Mount Shasta.

Giving a tour of the milk shed, Dusty points out the stainless steel sinks, hand washing station and large refrigerator. “The milk goes from cow to fridge in under ten minutes,” she said. The milk, which comes out of the udder at about 95 degrees, is cooled in an ice bath and refrigerator down to 35 degrees within a half hour, she explained.

When one of the event participants asked McAfee about the most critical thing to do to ensure safe milk, he said rapid cooling is top priority, along with overall health of the cow and cleanliness of the milk container.

Health concerns are important to McAfee, who spent a large part of his lecture pointing out the correlations between consuming raw dairy products and reported decreases in diseases and disorders such as asthma, eczema and gastroesophageal reflux disease. He referred to his 17 years of paramedic experience and claimed to see a paradigm shift in Western medicine.

“There’s a new hope for nutrition helping to cure disease instead of a new drug,” he said. “Doctors want to be healers, not to make the pharmaceutical industry rich.”

“Hippocrates said all disease begins in the gut,” McAfee quoted. “Any whole food is like a garden for your gut. It’s fantastic.” He said a strong population of beneficial bacteria, such as what’s found in raw milk, bone broth or fermented foods, will help to prevent overgrowth of disease-causing bacteria.

Dusty and Bob added that some of their farm share members come to them seeking milk as medicine, a remedy they’ve used themselves to treat a daughter with an autoimmune disorder.

Dusty said she used to suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition. “My doctor told me to avoid milk, but now he’s referring patients to me,” she said. She added that she has zero cavities in her teeth, and a recent bone density test revealed she “has the bones of a 20 year old” in middle age. All of this, she claims, is due to raw dairy.

When asked why many doctors recommend avoiding dairy, Dusty explained that all industrial dairy contains an A1 beta casein protein, whereas all her cows are tested to show they carry only A2 beta casein proteins. The A1 protein breaks down into a compound called BCM-7, which studies have shown to be a possible culprit in digestive issues.

McAfee pointed out that the lack of scientific research on the health effects of raw milk is one of the reasons RAWMI exists. They collect data from participating small dairies to submit to researchers at institutions such as University of California Davis.

Copeland Family Farm operates as a farm share, relying on members who visit the farm to pick up their food and help with milking. Dusty said she prefers this setup to operating as a commercial dairy because she, “wants the community to come to the farm and get to know the cow their milk comes from.”

For more information about Copeland Family Farm, visit For more information about raw milk and Mark McAfee, visit: