Renewed Push to Sell Raw Milk at Farmer's Markets

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AUSTIN, Texas -- The fight to bring raw milk closer to consumers is back at the state capitol.

• Raw milk legal, but cannot be sold off-site
• Farms say laws hurt production

Currently farms can sell raw milk on their farms but they can't sell it off-premise. Jim Richardson knows his way around a farm. He’s a veterinarian who has spent more than 25 years working on dairy farms.

His family farm, Richardson Farms, recently got involved in the dairy business.

"I'm a cow guy. I like cows and I like this kind of life and I like people, you know. I like to take and bring good food to people," said Richardson.    

Each weekend the farm sets up shop at farmer's markets across the state. They sell everything from eggs to beef. But something they can't bring to sell is raw milk.

"That is right. The way raw milk is in Texas and the limitations you have, a lot of people want to have the opportunity to have the choice to have raw, but it's such a burden on them, and for us too," said Richardson.

MORE | Raw Milk Q&A From the CDC

Raw milk is legal but the state's health and safety code doesn't allow farms to transport and sell raw milk off-site. One state lawmaker is working to change that regulation this session after failed attempts in the past due to perceived health risks.

"There's no reason somebody should have to drive two, three hours to the farm, to pick up a legal product and drive all the way back home," said Republican Representative Dan Flynn.  

For consumers, the burden is inconvenience. For the farm, it's a loss of production.

"We're milking 16 cows and at least half of our production is going down the drain because we just don't have enough sales for it yet," said Richardson.

But the Richardsons believe the demand is there.

"There's hundreds of people who would like to have the product," said Richardson.

Consuming raw dairy does come with an increased risk of food-borne illnesses. The state health department said they can't take a side on legislation, yet they recommend only drinking pasteurized milk.

"The Texas Association of Dairymen – which represents almost 400 dairy farmers across the state – does not support expanding current Texas law, which allows the sale of unpasteurized milk only to an individual who visits and buys it directly from the farm where it is produced,” said Darren Turley, executive director. “We believe that pasteurization is necessary for dairy food safety and agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that consuming raw milk is a serious health risk.”

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