When you buy organic meat and dairy products, you probably have certain expectations about how they were produced and how the animals were raised. You may expect that animals on organic farms would be raised with the highest welfare in mind, with lots of space and free access to pasture. You may expect that all organic farmers would be caring and conscientious enough to allow organic animals to exhibit their natural behaviors. You may expect that organic farms would be far superior to industrial farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Sorry to dash your hopes, but all organic farmers do not necessarily raise their animals with even Big Ag’s welfare standards as a base. It might surprise you to know that the United States National Organic Program (NOP) – the federal regulatory framework that governs organic food and farming in the U.S. – has no specific rules on the amount of space that organic farmers are required to give their animals whenever they are housed indoors. This obviously raises questions about animal welfare.
The first Vermont dairy recently passed its state certification to legally sell up to 40 gallons of raw milk per day. The certification is being given in two tiers—Tier 1 farms are only allowed to sell up to 50 quarts of milk per day and they do not have to be inspected or have their milk tested. Farms that wish to sell 40 gallons or more must be Tier 2 certified and both inspection and twice monthly milk testing is required. You may want to read the full list of legal requirements under Vermont’s Legislative Act 62 and as outlined in Rural Vermont’s Raw Milk Sellers Guide.
This state certification is a small hurdle for dairy farmers, who by selling raw milk directly to consumers, could potentially increase their profits by an additional $4 – $11 per gallon. This price increase would be a great boon for dairy farmers who when they sell their milk wholesale, according to FarmAid.org, are only getting $9 for every 11.8 gallons of milk they produce and are losing $200 per cow every month (For more details visit Farm Aid’s link Dairy: Family Farmers in Crisis.)
This type of state legislation is a victory for both farmers and consumers. Dairy farmers in Vermont now have the ability to get a fair price for the milk they produce and consumers are given the option to actually purchase the milk products they prefer. Consumers interested in buying raw milk in Vermont should visit www.RuralVermont.org and take a look at its consumer fact sheet.