Do you have raw milk? Despite health concerns, three states are considering loosening regulations | Global business

When a dairy cow the size of a concert grand piano fell on Layne Klein’s leg about 20 years ago, he had plenty of time to think about the future of his family farm.

“I had two kids in college, two in high school, and a son on his way to college. We were running out of feed and milk prices were as stinking as ever,” Klein said recently on his farm in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. “So we sold our dairy cows and decided to try to reduce production instead.”

Klein, who broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle in an accident, decided to obtain a raw milk license in Pennsylvania for Klein Farms in Easton. Since 2004, he has been selling delicious raw milk cheeses and raw milk there.

Raw milk lovers describe its taste as “grassier” and “creamier.” It usually sells at a higher cost, and Klein said the switch saved the farm.

“If you do it right, it will be a fantastic product,” he said.

Unpasteurized or raw milk remains controversial in Pennsylvania and beyond. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says raw milk “may harbor dangerous germs that could pose a serious health risk.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the emergence of bird flu in the United States, also advises against drinking unpasteurized milk.

“Anyone, even healthy adults, can get sick from drinking raw milk,” warns the CDC on its recently updated raw milk website.

Raw milk fans and opponents regularly scroll through TikTok, commenting on each other’s videos about the benefits of pasteurization, the process of heating milk to destroy potentially harmful microorganisms.

“There is no evidence to suggest that raw milk is healthier for you than pasteurized milk. One of them is pasteurized and the other one can kill you,” a TikTok user named @microbiologywes said in the video.

115 farms producing raw milk

However, across the United States, more and more states are discussing easing restrictions on the production or sale of raw milk. Only three states have complete bans on all raw milk products. In Pennsylvania, where selling raw milk requires licensing and testing, state Rep. Dave Zimmerman, R-Lancaster/Berks, recently introduced a bill to allow farmers to sell additional raw milk products beyond milk and cheese, including yogurt and ice cream.

“There is a huge movement across the country, especially among younger generations, who want more natural, organic products with less processing and chemicals,” Zimmerman said. “I want to keep farmers, especially small dairies, in business by enabling them to sell more raw materials.”

Even in New Jersey, where the use of raw milk only in pet food is legal (a lucrative market), agricultural leaders have recently expressed openness to discussing raw milk for human consumption.

“I believe that enough can be tested and monitored to bring a safe product to market,” Ed Wengryn, secretary of state for agriculture, said at a May 7 budget hearing.

Consumers, he said, have the freedom to buy and eat other raw foods, including seafood and vegetables.

There are nearly 5,000 dairy farms in Pennsylvania and, according to the state Department of Agriculture, 115 people with raw milk licenses. Applicants for this permit must undergo rigorous health and safety inspections of their herds and water sources. Their product must also be tested twice a year for foodborne pathogens.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association said the organization takes no position on raw milk.

Many raw milk licensees in Pennsylvania say the state’s stringent restrictions and adherence to pasteurization come from a very different, more dangerous time in the dairy world.

“Raw milk regulations are outdated. Raw milk was marked as “unsafe” against refrigeration, cars and modern testing. Marie Reedell, manager of Miller’s Bio Farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said in an email. “We have to move with the times.”

In January, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture filed a lawsuit against the Amos Miller Organic Farm in Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County, alleging that the farm sold raw dairy products linked to diseases in several states. (Miller, who was denied the permit, argued that because he sold milk through a private membership group, state regulations should not apply to him. The case is ongoing.)


He estimates that at Klein Farms, where Layne Klein was busy spreading hay in the barn on a recent weekday afternoon, he wholesales about 600 to 650 gallons of raw milk a week. He also produces a multitude of different cheeses, which must mature for 60 days in a freezer on his farm. Klein said he’s not interested in making more raw milk products because he’s busy enough, but he thinks there’s too much fear around the issue.

“There was a time when people milked cows by hand from open buckets, there was no refrigeration and the cows were poorly fed,” he said. “It’s a different time. I’m proud that I have clean cows.”

Klein’s farm is located just a few miles west of the Delaware River, and many customers cross state lines to purchase his products. He’s not concerned about New Jersey changing its approach to raw produce.

“I mean, raw milk makes up about 2% of dairy in Pennsylvania, so the number of farms in New Jersey that would do it would be minimal,” he said.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, there are 34 dairy farms in New Jersey. A spokesman for the New Jersey Farm Bureau said raw materials are “not a priority” for the organization.

When Wengryn discussed raw milk during last month’s budget hearing, he was responding to a question from Sen. Mike Testa, a Republican from rural Cumberland County. Testa told The Inquirer that voters asked him to push for raw milk, and one of them was Misty Meadows Sheep Dairy in Woodbine. Bill Simmerman, the farm’s owner, sells pasteurized sheep’s milk, cheese and yogurt, but would love to switch to raw products.

“We have lost so many small dairies in this state because of the rules and regulations required for pasteurization,” Simmerman said. “My facility is perfectly clean.”

Simmerman’s 16-acre farm is for sale for $2.4 million.

In Delaware the situation is worse. According to, there are about 13 dairy farms left in the state. According to this news organization, the state recently passed a bill calling on the Department of Agriculture to issue a raw milk permit to Delaware dairy farmers.

In New Jersey, when Testa asked Wengryn if he would be willing to work with him on raw milk regulations, the agriculture secretary smiled.

“I think my health commissioner and I are going to have to have a long and deep conversation about this,” Wengryn said. “But yes, I’m willing to talk.”