It’s breakfast time at the home of Tina Howard and her family, and something unusual is on the menu. “This is yogurt…that we made last night. It’s still warm right now,” she says as she pulls out the family’s special supply of yogurt made with unpasteurized or raw milk.
The family started drinking raw milk after their son had difficulty digesting store-bought milk. The Howards don’t buy their milk because it’s not legal to sell raw milk in Indiana. Instead they get their milk through a cow share arrangement. They own part of a cow with other families and then split the milk the cow produces with the other people.
Howard says it’s the only way they have access to raw milk, and if this option wasn’t available, she doesn’t know what they’d do.
“It’s not an option to reverse the health effects by going back to the other milk that was causing all of the problems to begin with. So we would either not drink it or we would figure out how to milk our own cow.”
This summer the State Board of Animal Health is studying the sale of raw milk, and based on research and public comment, the group will write a report recommending how the state should address the topic in next year’s legislative session.
Board of Animal Health Spokesperson Denise Derrer says having the public comment period could help generate ideas.
“There are 27 states that allow the sale of raw milk in some form, and if you look at those laws, at how they’re written in different states, you’ll find that there are 27 different versions,” she says. “So there is no good role model or standard out there necessarily, we’re taking a hard look at all of those to see if there is something already in the pipeline, but we also want to think out of the box.”
Derrer says the comments won’t be made public, but the Board of Animal Health will take the comments into consideration.
As for Howard, she says she wishes there was a more straight-forward way for her family to purchase the product. “You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to maneuver through a black market to buy milk the way it comes out of a cow when it comes out of a cow,” she says. And many around the state agree that if some Hoosiers are obtaining and drinking unpasteurized milk anyway, there should be a better way to regulate the product.
The Indiana State Board of Animal health’s website for public comment will remain open until September 1. Comments can also be sent to the board by mail.