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With No Legislative Movement, Fight Over Raw Milk Foments in Wisconsin


A bill that would loosen restrictions on sales of raw milk in Wisconsin is still pending. The bill passed a state senate committee in November, but has not advanced past that stage. 

Supporters of raw milk sales cite what they see as health benefits, including better digestion, along with better flavor. Those who support raw milk consumption claim that the milk has better flavor.

Some in the pro-raw milk camp have theorized that lactose intolerance is caused by the removal of enzymes during pasteurization, but that theory is not accepted by mainstream scientists. However, more bacteria has been found in raw milk to boost the immune system.

Those who oppose say raw milk consumption has caused outbreaks of disease, including typhus and E. Coli.

Erik Gunn, a writer for Milwaukee Magazine, has examined both sides of the debate and raw milk legislation. Even without the legislation, it has been a strident debate in a state already associated with dairy products.  Advocates have been willing to risk arrest in their efforts to buy or sell raw milk, and they have taken some unusual steps, as well.

Independent farmers are a big group who have been affected by raw milk legislation. In 2013, Vernon Hershbergerwent to court to defend his right to raw milk. Hershberger, who comes from an Amish background, does not use pasteurization practices on his dairy farm. Hershberger won his case because he was under the jurisdiction of co-operative dairies that can distribute raw milk and do not have to follow retail restrictions.

See a slideshow of the Hershberger farm here.

Erik Gunn is a contributing editor at Milwaukee Magazine.  His article on the debate over raw milk sales in Wisconsin is in the March issue.