LIVE OAK, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - At $13 dollars a gallon, the raw milk sold in a private Seminole County garage might as well be organic, white gold.
“If you think about what your grandparents ate, and in every generation before that, they had raw milk,” submits raw milk drinker, Tom Reitz of Windermere.
"Raw milk has that stig ma to it. Unrightly so, we believe,” says Steve Moreau, raw milk broker.
The label is quite clear and reads, "Pet Consumption Only."
“What people do with it when they take it home is their business. And we know not much of it is used for pets,” someone is heard saying from inside the garage.
That's because these consumers feel raw milk is healthier for them than traditional milk that's homogenized to last longer on shelves and pasteurized to kill off bacteria. They won't touch the mainstream stuff.
“It's like you're drinking, I don't know, white water,” says Reitz, who brings home to his family a month's supply of raw milk in his portable cooler. He swears by its enzymes and minerals. “We don't get sick. Don't get headaches, fevers, colds,” submits Reitz.
He bakes cookies and makes ice cream with it too, and with all that cream on top, it does taste a bit different. “Yeah. It has flavor,” says Reitz.
And for that flavor, Reitz’ milk club has to drive 3-and-a-half hours north of Orlando to a small farm in Live Oak, Suwannee County, to the Full Circle Farm, owned by Dennis Stoltzfoos.
“Our cows move everyday to a fresh spot in the pasture where they get fresh, fast-growing grass,” says Farmer Dennis.
And there’s the secret. “It has to do with eating milk, meat, and cheese from animals that are healthy. As opposed to animals that have to be put up on antibiotics. And this is the issue for us,” says Steve Moreau.
Raw milk fans say pasteurization has its problems. “It allows the farmers to be dirtier. They can allow the cows to sit in whatever and not have them too clean. And they just realize that they can heat everything up to 160 degrees, it will kill everything anyways,” says Reitz.
Not true, suggests Florida Dairy Farmers spokesman, Scott Wallin. “Animal welfare and animal health is priority number one on all 140 of our dairy farms. These farmers go to extreme lengths to make sure that animal is well-fed and well-nourished,” says Wallin.
“The industry pumps them with hormones, pumps them with grain, carbohydrates. You and I don't live healthy on a high-carb diet, they don't either,” says Farmer Dennis.
The Food and Drug Administration says stay away from raw milk saying it may contain harmful bacteria which can cause life-threatening illnesses. Wallen says by pasteurizing milk, it eliminates a lot of harmful pathogens like e-coli, salmonella, and lysteria.
“The FDA is warning us, saying it's 'Russian Roulette' and we're playing with our lives. It's simply not the case,” says Moreau.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, we've had 7 people die since 2000 from drinking unpasteurized milk. So if you want to role that dice and play that game of drinking an unpastuerized product, you're putting your health and your family's health at risk,” says Wallin.
“A hundred years ago they had a problem keeping up with cleanliness. Nowadays there's sterilization of the tools that you use to get the milk from the cows,” says Reitz.
The stigma to raw milk is that it's dangerous. It's full of pathogens. But the other side of the story is that it's full of enzymes and good bacteria, particularly when it's grass fed,” says Moreau.
Nineteen states have legalized raw milk sales to humans including California, Nebraska, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York among them, and other states are on that path like Alaska, Tennessee, and New Jersey.
But in Florida, it still remains a pet food, straight from the cow, filtered for hair and flies, and bottled. It's a hyper-organic product that takes a 7-hour round trip to get. “I drive 3 hours to get the milk for our co-op down here. Yeah. It's a commitment. And I'm the designated driver,” says Moreau.
“There's nutrients in it. And when they drink it, they feel a difference,” adds Farmer Dennis. “I'd rather put the right nutrients into me and my wife and my daughter so that we stay healthy,” adds Reitz.