Right to Raw Milk
Fuel Legal Challenges to FDA Attacks
U.S.A. Interview: Mark McAfee
2007, Acres U.S.A.
story of Mark McAfees rise into the national limelight was
the subject of an Acres U.S.A. report in May 2004 (Reinventing
Dairy: Organics & Innovation Give Consumers Real Milk).
Recently Organic Pastures Dairy became the target of a cabal forever
dedicated to the proposition that confinement dairy cows, ineffective
pasteurization and debilitating results of contaminated milk be
protected by law. The milk story is well known to Acres U.S.A. readers.
In a world where the sound-bite TV mantra has become the arbiter
of settled science, a steadily growing number of consumers
have set aside the edicts of FDA and opted for fresh, unprocessed
milk, and in doing so have defeated many of the syndromes that torment
children and adults alike lower bowel disorders, lactose
intolerance, digestive upset and allergies, to mention a few.
The fact is that consumers are on the march, and
the absconders of our most precious heritage have a hard time serving
their sub-rosa masters while staying within the law.
Mark McAfee has managed the 600-acre McAfee family farm since the
early 1980s. In 1998 he was awarded Best of the West
for innovations in food safety and was also featured on 20/20 with
Lynn Sherr for his food safety and organic innovations. In 2000,
he initiated the dairy and became an innovator in that sector
among Marks inventions is the nations first Grade A
Certified, 20-station mobile milk barn, which brings the barn
to the cows.
In this interview he states the case for fresh,
raw milk and announces that the fighting spirit of at least a few
of agricultures leaders is not dead.
U.S.A. Fresh or raw milk producers are having problems just
about everywhere, such as in Michigan, where they pulled over a
guy and destroyed his product and raided his house and took the
records and similar things have happened in state after state.
Id like to have your take on all this, especially how it has
impacted your operation recently.
McAFEE. Thats a big discussion because there are massive
interests the pharmaceutical interests, doctors, the current
medical practitioners associations, all the politics of creameries,
the national branded organic dairies as well as national branded
conventional dairies, the mega-dairies, the FDA, the USDA
that are completely in alignment against short-shelf-life, high-value-added
products. They are interested in long-shelf-life, low-liability
products, and they want to control that market segment entirely.
Raw milk represents a kind of interloper to them its
something that keeps them from having complete control of the markets.
It also has some incredible healing properties that would ultimately
ruin the pharmaceutical industry as well as the current paradigm
of sick health care versus preventive health care. People make lots
of money on sick people they dont make a lot of money
on people who prevent disease and illness.
U.S.A. It seems to us that sound-bite slogans are being taken
as the arbiter of settled science.
Its not settled science at all this is unsettled science.
You have 200,000 people a year dying from medications that are approved
by the FDA these are due to errors made by doctors and people
who prescribe medications.
U.S.A. Taking medicines as directed?
Correct 200,000 people a year! Thats CDC information.
In addition, 100,000 or more people are dying each year from infections
they contract in the hospital they didnt have these
infections when they were admitted.
U.S.A. What do they call it?
Its called iatrogenic illness conditions brought on
by physicians and by conditions at the hospital. We have antibiotic
resistance in epidemic proportions right now, where antibiotics
just dont work anymore. You have things such as E. coli 0157,
which is now surfacing in a variant that cant be killed by
modern medicine and if you do try to kill it with a modern
medicine such as antibiotics, it releases its shigella toxin, which
is extremely lethal.
U.S.A. The intelligence we have is that a high percentage of
the confinement dairy herds have para-T or Johnes disease.
From what I understand, thats correct.
U.S.A. And that the Johnes disease organism passes right
past the pasteurization process and ends up creating lower-bowel
disturbances as well as Crohns disease. Is that what youre
That is correct. In fact, I just got a Veterinary Review article
this morning that confirmed that paratuberculosis is not heat sensitive
and will live right through pasteurization.
U.S.A. So much for pasteurization. How about homogenization?
Homogenization, I understand, has some affect, but Im not
a scientist and I dont know all the data around that.
U.S.A. Well, you have some interesting little biological/scientific
takes on your answering machine message would you explain
one or two of those?
Sure. When you have probiotic diversity in milk when you
have many, many different organisms, all the enzymes, and its
a whole food, not partial, it hasnt been processed in any
way then it has a high propensity, a very good affect on
limiting pathogen growth. As soon as you get things out of balance,
however, you start having problems with things such as pathogens,
Johnes and so forth. If you leave things in natural balance,
the good organisms tend to take care of the bad organisms. In other
words, there are many, many different kinds of E. coli. Ninety-five
percent of them are all beneficial. Without them you wouldnt
have vitamin K, you wouldnt have vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12.
E. coli is essential to life on earth and is an indispensable group
of organisms in your intestines. If we start getting rid of those
organisms, we also get rid of natural colicin, naturally occurring
antibiotic-like substances which inhibit the pathogenic forms of
E. coli, such as the 0157:H7 strain. This whole bacteria paranoia
we have in this country is beyond out of control.
U.S.A. Theyve substituted bad food for food containing
living entities, and as we understand it, dead plus dead equals
Thats exactly right! Living foods provide the elements that
are the building blocks to heal the human body and other organisms.
U.S.A. You have mentioned elsewhere that these children who
have lactose intolerance are excused from that problem if they move
over to fresh or raw milk.
U.S.A. What happens? Why is that?
The reason that people have lactose intolerance to begin with is
because they do not produce the lactase enzyme in their gut. The
organisms in fresh milk actually produce lactate or the lactobacillus
bacteria, which is in fact one of the main targets of pasteurization
because it causes souring and shortens the shelf life of milk. If
you get rid of lactobacillus you get an increased shelf life for
milk but if you leave it in and keep the milk cold, you still
have a nice 14-day shelf life not a problem, really. In any
case, the lactobacillus bacteria is responsible for creating lactase
enzyme. For those people who dont have lactase enzymes, when
lactose sugar, thats milk sugar, enters the gut, theyll
have gas cramps and all kinds of problems thats called
lactose intolerance. But if you drink raw milk, just like Mother
Nature created it, it will have lactobacillus bacteria, which will
produce lactase, which in turn will digest the lactose sugar. No
more lactose intolerance!
U.S.A. One other question comes to mind. What happens to that
E. coli thats excreted by the cow once it hits the turf or
is sheet composted?
Heres the thing cows produce E. coli in their manure
all the time, but those are good strains of E. coli. Now, you can
create an unhealthy cow thats producing a lot of bad strains
such as 0157:H7 if you give her a lot of grain feed
and never grass-feed her and put her in a big feed lot.
U.S.A. Which is a consequence of confinement operations, or
Right in a recent study they found that one in five cows
in the big confinement dairies 23 percent, I think
had E. coli 0157:H7 shedding.
U.S.A. This is a consequence of how theyre fed?
Precisely. I would say that its a combination of feeding the
grain, not having any grass and then antibiotics those three
things are the killers. Now, you grass-feed a cow, and the statistic
drops low its a fraction of one percent, if anything.
Some herds dont have it all. Our herd doesnt have it
at all. Theyve never found pathogens in our cows, ever, but
were religious grass-feeders here.
U.S.A. You just have the garden variety E. coli, and when it
hits the ground, why, the microorganisms in the soil take care of
Exactly. And theres plenty of the good strains of E. coli
in the soil as well. Thats the background good bacteria
that actually inhibit the pathogenic forms of bacteria. The more
diverse your soil, the healthier your soil. The more diversity you
have in your gut, the healthier your gut.
U.S.A. All these things stated you have an absolutely
impeccable record and reputation. Why would the authorities pick
We are the poster child for how to do raw milk in the United States.
If they can destroy the poster child, theyll destroy the entire
paradigm. Theyll destroy the entire movement and destroy the
source of raw milk because its our integrity thats under
attack. I believe they think if they can get rid of Mark McAfee
and Organic Pastures Dairy, theyll have no leadership in the
industry so why not go after us? The problem they had was
that they shot first and asked questions later and they forgot
something. They forgot who Mark McAfee was. I was a paramedic for
16 years, and I am very, very familiar with taking medical histories.
Im also very, very familiar with going into hospitals and
becoming friends with nurses. So I went in and basically cozied
up to all these ICU nurses and doctors and talked to the patients
themselves, talked to the parents of the children that they said
were sickened by our milk, and I found out that the truth was completely
different from the claims of the authorities. In fact, there werent
four children, there were only two children who were sick, and of
those two children, one was officially on the spinach list and admitted
to having spinach from Watsonville; the other came out on national
TV and said it had nothing to do with the milk.
U.S.A. But every time a case or two turns up in any health division
and theres somebody selling raw milk, immediately they blame
raw milk they dont look any further.
Thats what happened down in Oklahoma a few weeks ago as well.
A child got sick, really sick for six weeks. The mother said
that the child had a spinach smoothie four of her five children
had the spinach smoothie, and those four children became sick with
E. coli 0157:H7. One was hospitalized, the rest recovered quickly.
U.S.A. The intelligence Ive had from some of the field
producers of spinach in Florida and in California is that too often
the spinach is grown very near a confinement feeding operation,
and it could travel or migrate by way of polluted water, too.
That is correct but what Im getting at with the Oklahoma
family was this: four of the five children had the spinach smoothie.
The fifth child did not have the spinach smoothie and didnt
get sick. They all drank raw milk, all the time, but the only child
that got really, really sick was the one who went to the hospital
and got the antibiotics. This is a really important part of the
story, by the way, you need to get this out if a child has
E. coli 0157:H7, do not give antibiotics. It can be a death sentence.
U.S.A. Theres an article out of Canada on E. coli by Dr.
Glen Armstrong that makes the same case.
The medical literature is very clear. Dont give antibiotics
to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, because what it does is it kills
off all the good E. coli and youre left with only the bad
strains, and the toxins they emit just tear up your kidneys, destroy
them. The kids who dont receive antibiotics actually experience
a quicker recovery for example, two down in San Diego, who
the authorities claimed got sick from our product, went to the pediatrician
rather than the hospital, then went home and recovered in three
days. One of the kids never even said they had raw milk they
said they had something else. The other kid said they had some of
our colostrum, but there were other things they ate as well. We
dont know whether it was our milk or not, but we do know this
the story is not as it was told in the press.
U.S.A. Since the topic has come up, lets take your recent
case step by step, just what happened.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture came in and announced
to the world through a press release at 4:30 on a Thursday
afternoon that we were under recall quarantine and had made
four kids sick. They came and told me 35 minutes later, so I didnt
even have a chance to respond. I threatened them with a $100 million
lawsuit because I thought it was brand defamation there was
no evidence whatsoever, and they had no bacteria count whatsoever
on any of our products. There was no link between our products and
the kids they just said that four kids were ill. I asked
who these kids were. They said, We cant tell you.
I said, Show me the fecal exam. We dont
have it back yet. It was entirely preemptive and precautionary.
U.S.A. What were you able to find out?
I went down and visited the families two days later I actually
had a physical visit at Loma Linda Hospital, and the story quickly
unfolded. In fact the illnesses had nothing to do with our milk
we were just easy opportunity targets because we were raw
milk, but when youve got 50,000 people a week drinking your
milk in Southern California, youre going to have overlap.
And you know they didnt even find the same strains in all
the fecal exams they werent the same, there were two
different strains! Ive learned that researchers are finding
theres a second strain of pathogen in the contaminated spinach,
even though the CDC says theres only one strain. There are
a bunch of families out there right now that are bewildered because
they had spinach and got sick and have E. coli, but have a different
strain. Theres kind of official denial of that. In any case,
within a week of this whole quarantine happening, I threatened to
hold a press conference to tell all about what I had discovered.
The state was begging me not to do so because they wanted more time
to get their tests completed. I basically had them over the barrel
because Id caught them in a lie and consumers were irate,
they were writing letters and calling their congressmen and everything
we had 8,000 e-mails come in. We had people ready to march
on to Sacramento because they wanted raw milk. So the state capitulated
within seven days.
U.S.A. How many days were you down?
We were out 14 days altogether.
U.S.A. Thats quite a blow to an operation like yours,
We figure about $110,000 a week, so close to a quarter of a million
U.S.A. Can you recover any of it?
Heres the shame of it all. Without having proven anything,
they made us destroy all the milk we had in inventory, all the milk
from that period of time. All we could make was cheese. What was
really sad about it was all that milk during the quarantine had
been tested, and it all tested perfectly fine. For us it was tragic;
it was like sticking the bayonet in and then twisting it, you know?
We had to throw away perfectly good milk.
U.S.A. They can run these phony deals past you though and eventually
break you just for defending yourself, cant they?
Thats true, but in our case, we stood our ground and called
a big press conference and basically pushed the state to capitulate
in the face of a public uprising.
U.S.A. Tell me about the demonstrations.
We had 200 people or so here in a rally at the farm on the Friday,
September 29, when the quarantine was lifted. The quarantine had
actually been lifted 24 hours earlier, but they asked me please
not to tell anybody because they wanted to have some time to get
their act together. Anyway, we lifted the quarantine on national
TV I think there were like 15 television and radio reporters;
everybody was here. There would have been 1,000 people at the rally
if it had been on a Saturday, but on a Friday, many supporters were
at work or school. The people who did make it were passionate, and
the consumers got to talk to the media and tell them about their
asthma or osteoporosis or Crohns disease going away. Crohns,
by the way, is resolved by raw milk the pathogen is actually
invigorated by pasteurization of milk.
U.S.A. Absolutely. Thats the point we made a little earlier.
If you talk to Jordan Rubin, the guy who wrote The Makers
Diet, he nearly died of Crohns disease back in 1996 and
1997. He drank raw milk and kefir and recovered fully from it.
U.S.A. Just from raw milk and kefir?
Thats right. That was his treatment.
U.S.A. Well, in your case the state finally capitulated. What
did that do to other dairies?
Heres the thing. The California Milk Advisory Board is an
extremely strong, well-funded pseudo- political entity its
actually pseudo- governmental entity of the private milk industry
in California. They promote pasteurized milk in California with
the Got Milk? commercials and the milk mustaches. They
absolutely want to get rid of any message that flies in the face
of what they do so were a thorn in their side.
U.S.A. Are you the only thorn in California?
Theres a little one named Claravale Dairy in Watsonville
theyve only got 25 cows, and theyve been around since
U.S.A. Are you going to try to recover any of your damages?
We sent a bill to them and they agreed to pay for the milk product
loss itself. They wouldnt pay any other damages or costs,
but they would pay for our milk product loss, $109,000 of just basic
U.S.A. $109,000 a day or a week?
No, that was for everything. We figured we had about a $500,000
loss in terms of our attorneys fees and lost product and brand
damage and so on.
U.S.A. Wheres this going, this raw milk movement
are we going to prevail and finally back them down? Take the Food
and Drug Administration, they certainly know what were talking
about, about this damaging E. coli out of feedlot cattle that are
turned into ruminant hogs they cant be ignorant of
that, and yet they insist on propounding these points.
The FDA knows about it, all right. They also know that hand cleaners
are causing problems with cleanser- resistant bacteria. They know
that. Their own publications are saying stop killing bacteria
because theyre becoming resistant. So the smarter of
them understand this whole probiotic versus antibiotic thing and
know that were already in a car wreck heading toward a worse
car wreck with the whole hospitalization issue and the sterilization
issue and all that stuff.
U.S.A. And the food issue.
Yes, the sterilized food.
U.S.A. Where are we going with the GMOs for instance? Where
are we going with cloned meat protein?
We have a real problem on our hands, dont we? We have a real
challenge. The beauty of it is that consumers love us and we can
jump through the entire food chain without having any of this other
stuff in the way. But thats the saving grace of raw milk production
consumers love us.
U.S.A. Yes, but youve got to fight the battle one state
at a time, apparently.
Thats correct, and thats why it was so imperative to
win in California decisively, so that we wouldnt be harassed
for the duration and used as a bad example.
U.S.A. Do you associate a nationwide outbreak of enforcement
activity with what happened to you?
We have seen it.
U.S.A. Across the whole country?
Yes. Im not sure if its concerted or whether it was
something that happened just because of timing. I have a feeling,
though, that there was directive that came down from the FDA
hey, clamp down on this raw milk thing.
U.S.A. Well, its like the old politician says, nothing
happens by accident.
No, I dont think so. I think youre right.
U.S.A. So, where do you go from here? Does this in the long
run hurt your business, or are you going to pick up customers?
Our sales are 30 percent higher now that were back in production.
We cannot keep product on the shelf. It has been the greatest thing
thats ever happened to our market.
U.S.A. So in terms of getting the message out, once in a while
you do penetrate the mainstream medias iron curtain?
Yes for example, the Los Angeles Times ran a feature article
about Organic Pastures Dairy and raw milk and our consumers in the
first week of December.
U.S.A. Of course people who read this interview can access the
mother lode on your operation by visiting your website on the Internet.
Yes, its at www.organicpastures.com,
and it receives thousands and thousands of hits a day.
U.S.A. As you probably know, there are producers around the
country in various states who are literally being forced to bootleg
Yes the Weston Price Foundation right now is initiating some
lawsuits based on the constitutional right to possess personal property,
because when you have a cow share program, youre not legally
U.S.A. But the problem is, the cop who pulls the guy over apparently
feels hes arresting officer, prosecutor, judge, jury and fine
Thats the issue. That officer needs to be put in jail because
he is falsely accusing someone of something who has done nothing
wrong. Thats why the officer has to be sued, as well as the
governmental agencies with a class-action lawsuit, and thats
what the Weston Price Foundation is actually involved with right
U.S.A. Thats with Sally Fallon?
Correct. As I said, when you have a cow share, that milk is not
being sold. It is already owned by the shareholders, and they are
simply taking possession of and drinking their own milk. It is a
crime against the Constitution of this United States that these
people are being deprived of access to their own property.
U.S.A. Theyre being deprived of the right to contract,
Thats correct. Theres all kinds of violations, Bill
of Rights and everything else. I think youre going to see
a landslide victory in some level of a court that shows that a cow
share program is completely legitimate and legal, and you can take
that milk anywhere you want because its your milk. I think
were also going to see some capitulation where enforcers back
off, and I think cow shares will become more and more prevalent
in this country. Youll start seeing stories in the media,
and it will get to Oprah Winfrey in the next couple years. Stories
from the milk consumers themselves will come out about how their
autism is better, how ADD was resolved and lactose intolerance and
asthma and Crohns disease and theyre saying its
all about Mother Natures raw milk. Theres another thing
going on the technology to verify and test pathogens is becoming
very inexpensive and extremely rapid. So the ability not only to
feed the cows on green grass but also to verify and test their milk
is becoming excellent. There is a very good thing going on here.
U.S.A. Are we talking about a federal legal action or is this
still at a state level?
Itll be state, initially. I dont know where Sally is
taking it as far as federal is concerned, but there could be some
federal action as well. Well see.
U.S.A. In your case at least, the story had a positive outcome.
Our consumers are elated very, very excited. And the state
had to retract their statements and admit that there was no link
whatsoever between our milk and any illnesses in California. Of
course, that was printed on the back page in small print, after
the front page screamed that we made four kids sick.
U.S.A. The press keeps repeating the official mantra that youve
got to have pasteurization because dairy is inherently a filthy
business and so on. But youve proved otherwise.
And the whole movement is rapidly picking up momentum. The press
cant ignore it for much longer.
McAfee can be contacted at Organic Pastures Dairy Company, 7221
South Jameson Avenue, Fresno, California 93706, phone 559-846-9732,