Newsmaker Q&A: Raw milk dairy farmer Bill CoutuBy Curt Brown
Article from SouthCoastToday.com
Bill Coutu, 48, and his wife, Marlene, own the 27-acre Paskamansett Farms at 742 Tucker Road in Dartmouth, and their son Tom, runs the dairy operation there.
Bill Coutu said each cow produces five gallons of raw, unpasteurized milk per day, which is sold only at the farm in accordance with state law. They have 20 cows, but are currently milking only six.
Coutu said his product is "straight from the cow, filtered and cooled."
Q: Please tell me about the farm, the number of acres, how long has it been in your family.
A: "We bought the farm in '91. It's a family farm. We originally started growing herbs and produce and things like that, and as it evolved, my son just started collecting cows and animals. That was his passion. That was always, actually, my passion, too. He started himself a dairy. We thought the best way to do it was to sell raw milk just because of the financial aspect of it. It's $7 a gallon, and we're actually the cheapest one around. The others are $10 and up per gallon, and it has worked out very well for us.
Q: How did your son get his start in the dairy business?
A: When he was 8 years old, he entered the pumpkin pie contest at the Westport Fair and he took either second or third place. He took that money and went straight to a dairy and bought a small heifer, which he raised and he has been doing it ever since. He just kept buying them.
Q: I understand your customers travel from near and far to buy your milk. Could you discuss that, please?
A: We have people who come down from Boston, Truro, Wellfleet, Falmouth, a lot of the Cape customers, Plymouth, even Providence, because the milk is not available in Rhode Island. A lot of them come down because it is such a beautiful place to drive down to.
Q: What's unique about the farm?
A: It's unique because we sell our milk unpasteurized, in glass bottles, which is very different from what you get in the store. For one, the milk is about 6 percent cream, and standard whole milk is only 3 percent. The milk also comes from grass-fed cows versus standard dairies, which are mainly a corn-based diet.
Q: Why do people drink raw milk?
A: The lactate enzymes get destroyed during the pasteurization process, and if you drink the raw milk, you don't have problems with digestion. There is also beneficial bacteria in the (raw) milk.
Q: Why can't you buy raw milk in grocery stores?
A: The federal government considers it a public health hazard and allows the states to regulate how it is sold, if at all. In some states, you can buy it in the grocery stores, and in others, you can't get it at all.
Q: How many dairy farms that sell raw milk are there in Massachusetts?
A: There are, I believe, just under 25 in the state that sell raw milk, which is very unique because there are 300 and something towns in the state and only 25 licensed dairies to sell raw milk.
Q: What do your customers say about the product that they buy here?
A: They love the product because it is totally different than what you can buy in the store. The milk is almost like drinking a milkshake because its so thick from the cream and you know what you're getting. You know where your milk has come from. It's a pasture-based product versus ... right now with milk (prices) below the actual costs to produce it for most dairy farms, you're getting whatever they can feed the cows. And it is not necessarily the healthiest diet for the cows. And it doesn't produce the highest-quality milk.