published Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Georgia bill looks to allow raw milk in grocery stores




Dairy farmer Trevor Gilkerson hands customer, Amanda Owens, and her 5-month-old daughter, Mardi, a half-gallon of bottled raw milk on his family farm just outside of Brookings, S.D., in this Jan. 29, 2014 photo.
Dairy farmer Trevor Gilkerson hands customer, Amanda Owens, and her 5-month-old daughter, Mardi, a half-gallon of bottled raw milk on his family farm just outside of Brookings, S.D., in this Jan. 29, 2014 photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MARIETTA, Ga. — Some metro Atlanta residents say they're concerned that legislation aimed at allowing grocery stores to sell unprocessed milk will force regulations on farmers and compromise the relationships they have with customers.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports dozens of Cobb and Cherokee County residents were at a hearing Wednesday to discuss a bill filed by Rep. Scot Turner, a Holly Springs Republican. Currently, unprocessed milk may only be legally sold in Georgia for pet consumption.

Despite that, some say they bypass grocery stores and buy milk directly from farmers because they like knowing where the milk they're drinking comes from and that the product is pure.

Federal officials say unprocessed milk may carry contamination and that pasteurization -- or heating the substance -- kills potentially deadly bacteria. However, some consumers say they're not concerned with potential contamination and that pasteurization may also remove helpful nutrients.

Raw milk consumers say allowing grocery stores to begin selling unpasteurized milk would likely give way to regulations that would change the quality of the products and interfere with the relationships between farmers and consumers.

"Regulation is always tilted toward big agriculture, not small farms," said Cindy Morrow, of Woodstock. "I don't mind taking the 'risk' with food. I do have a problem with big government." Morrow said she usually pays between $7 and $8 per gallon for unprocessed milk when she meets with a local farmer.

Turner said he considers the proposal as a way of putting power back in the hands of consumers.

Sandra Walker said she drives for about half an hour through Cobb County to pick up milk from a farmer and that buying locally sourced food is important to her family. Even if grocery stores were allowed to start selling raw milk, Walker said she'd still buy it directly from local farmers.

"Raw milk is one of the most nutrient-dense foods that is available to us," she said. "It would be nice if raw milk was more widely available, but I don't want to compromise what I already have."

Cobb County farmer Daniel Seedorf said being allowed to sell his milk in grocery stores would likely hurt his business more than it would help.

"I do not want to have faceless transactions. Every single one of my customers come here to my farm and meet me face-to-face," he said. "The best food is not convenient. It's a lot of effort, a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding to grow food like this."

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