Monday, December 24, 2007

Hard to tell how this will end...

I have been watching the raw-milk flap for a few years, but apparently it may be gathering some momentum. 2 Blowhards have a good summary.
A little background: In most states, it's against the law to sell or buy raw (ie., unpasteurized and unhomogenized, straight-from-the-cow-or-goat) milk because of fears of contamination. Yet some people feel that raw milk isn't just ultra-tasty (having tried raw milk, I agree wholeheartedly with this verdict), it also benefits their health.

So: Perhaps the sale of raw milk should be strictly prevented on public-health grounds -- public-health grounds that we're justifiably proud of, and that we should be completely unyielding about. After all, in pre-pasteurization days, tons and tons of people used to get sick because of milk-borne infections. On the other hand, why shouldn't freedom and liberty prevail whenever possible? Provided that the public is made aware of the risks, why shouldn't people be allowed to conduct business as they see fit? After all, if we permit the sale of cigarettes ...

The controversy seems to be emerging as a newsworthy one. (Here, here.) An informal coalition of hippies, home-schoolers, health buffs, libertarians, local-farming fans, and foodies are pushing the freedom-and-raw-milk cause, while governments are cracking down so hard on the raw-milk scene that they're beginning to make some people think, "Good lord, it's Waco all over again." And editors and policymakers are beginning, if reluctantly, to take note. Whee! [More]
I am always leery of gushing claims for "alternative food". Organic fruits/veggies haven't impressed me. (In fairness, fresh from a garden stuff does.) But I agree this can be seen as a nanny-state intervention into lives that is both unneeded and market-distorting.

However, milk marketing in the US is already a sad display of market perversion firmly controlled by firms who defend the status quo via political power. It could be a narrow issue like this one, made possible by wealthy, picky consumers constitutes an asymmetrical challenge to the hegemony granted by marketing orders and allotments.

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