In Wisconsin, activists and consumers have mobilized against the law banning the sale of unpasteurized milk to the public in several US states.
A war is being waged in Wisconsin, the land of "cheeseheads," between ARMi (the Alliance for Raw Milk Internationale) and the state authorities. Current laws ban the sale to the public of unpasteurized milk, but the local community continues to find loopholes allowing them to keep distributing their favorite beverage.
The latest strategy was devised by Vernon Hershberger, the owner of a dairy farm with 40 cows. To get around the ban, Hershberger founded Moo-shine, a club which provided its members with raw milk directly from the farm. Problems arose when state food inspectors intervened, shutting down the club, destroying the milk and prosecuting Hershberger.
Wisconsin, however, is the Dairy State, where milk is the official state drink, car license plates read "America's Dairyland" and Swiss-cheese-shaped hats are all the rage. Activists flocked to the courthouse to support Hershberger and protest the trial: members of ARMi and other free food movements, waving placards with slogans like "My milk, my body, my choice."
The Moo-shine case is just one example. In other states, raw-milk crusaders regularly organize "herdshares," collectives which share ownership of a herd of cows. Farmers sell shares in their livestock, and shareholders receive raw milk in exchange for a fee used to help maintain the cows.
Back in Wisconsin, despite the ban on transport across state lines and the Food and Drug Administration's warnings about the health risks of consuming raw milk, this time unpasteurized milk won. Hershberger was acquitted of selling and operating without a license, though he was found guilty of having removed the food the authorities had ordered him to keep as evidence after raiding his farm. The Moo-shine battle ended in victory, but the war for the liberalization of raw milk in Wisconsin continues.
Members of the Slow Food American Raw Milk Cheese Presidium created a new independent Raw Milk Cheesemakers' Association in 2007 - a member-based association open to all raw milk cheesemakers, focused on promoting and protecting the right to produce raw milk cheeses of quality in the US, and providing a network to assist small-scale cheesemakers with technical, regulatory and business resources.
For more information on the Slow Food Raw Milk Cheese Presidium