In the past century, farming in America has undergone changes more drastic than any patterns that can be observed in an equal period of time in history. Factory farming has almost become the absolute norm, and family farms are all but extinct. Nowadays, in fact, less than 1% of American-produced meat comes from family farms (Foer: see citations at the end of this article).
Family farms, however few in number they may be, are still in operation, though, scattered across the United States. Unfortunately, one of them, Bechard Family Farm, located just outside of Springfield, Missouri, is now under intense fire from both its local city and state. Its offense? Selling raw milk. But what’s so wrong with selling raw milk?
Pasteurized Milk Versus Raw Milk
The debate about whether raw milk is healthy or unhealthy has raged since the invention of pasteurization, and will likely continue in one form or another indefinitely. While advocates of raw milk consumption list benefits such as creamier taste (likely due to the cream being mixed into the milk, which results in higher fat content), scientifically supported disease-curing properties, and more health benefits due to the destruction of fewer enzymes and vitamins (RealMilk.com and Klotter), opponents, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, passionately argue that unpasteurized raw milk is unsafe, and should be avoided entirely.
Despite the views of the federal government, though, individual states regulate whether or not raw milk may legally be sold within their borders, and Missouri, where the Bechard Family Farm is located, is one in which it is allowed.
What the Bechard Family Did Wrong
According to David Michael Augenstein, who runs the Journal of Natural Food and Healing, the Bechard family found itself in hot water after two undercover agents from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department purchased two gallons of raw milk from the daughters of Armand Bechard, who produces the milk at Bechard Family Farm. The city of Springfield is suing Bechard because the milk was sold off the property without a permit (Raw Milk Court Case: Facebook).
Missouri, as a state, is suing the Bechard family for other reasons. In the state, raw milk must not be sold away from the farm. However, if orders are placed ahead of time, sellers of raw milk may make use of alternate areas to distribute milk that has already been sold.
Chris Koster, Attorney General for the state of Missouri, is suing the Bechard family in an attempt to make it illegal to use centers outside of their farm for distribution of the raw milk orders. Although the Bechard family refuses to consent to this (hence, heading to court), they are now making it a requirement to pay for raw milk orders in advance online, so that no money changes hands at distribution centers (Springfield News-Leader archives).
What the Bechard Family Does Right
In a world where the family farm is dying, and factory farms are taking over, many are voicing their support for the Bechard Family Farm, and their right to choose to sell raw milk (as well as the right of buyers to have the choice to purchase raw milk conveniently and legally).
Pasteurized milk often comes from factories that don’t care for their animals in the same way that the Bechard family does. At the Bechard Family Farm, their animals roam 115 acres of land; their cows actually feed on natural, chemical-free, green grass–an extreme rarity in modern dairy industries.
Pasteurized milk purchased from the store is usually from cows that are given “feed” that is essentially a drug cocktail. The cows are pumped full of a variety of “foods” that are either bad for their health, unnatural, or are, in purest form, a concoction with an antibiotic-rich base (or, most often, a combination). This “feed” moves from the cow to the milk, and ultimately to the human consumer.
Bechard Family Farm takes a different approach, though. On its website, the family proudly advertises that its “dairy foods are free from antibiotics, hormones, or other chemicals commonly used in the confinement food industry” (BechardFarm.com).
Supporting the Bechard Family Farm
The sale of Bechard Family Farm’s raw milk has clearly ignited a food freedom war in Missouri. Without help, the family farm could go under. The Alliance for Raw Milk Internationale (ARMi), though, has set up a donation page, so that those in favor of food freedom can donate money to help the Bechard family in its court cases.
Essentially, supporters are fighting for the right of consumers to have the choice to conveniently and legally purchase raw milk, and for the right of farmers to choose to sell raw milk.
If the Bechard family loses the cases, Armand Bechard could face up to 180 days in prison, and the family faces the prospect of potentially losing their farm.
To support the Bechard Family Farm, visit their Support Me campaign on Facebook.
To learn more about the Bechard Family Farm, visit their website at BechardFarm.com.
To get updates about the farm and the cases, follow the Bechard Family on their Facebook page.
Works Cited and Referenced
1. Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company. New York, 2009 p201
3. Klotter, Jule. “Milk.” Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients 263 (2005): 17+. General OneFile. Web. 3 June 2010.
4. Bren, Linda. “Got milk? Make sure it’s pasteurized.” FDA Consumer Sept.-Oct. 2004: 29+. General OneFile. Web. 3 June 2010.
5. Augenstein, David Michael M.S., P.E. Journal of Natural Foods and Healing “A Raw Milk Deal: Farmer Faces 180 Days Jail and Could Lose the Farm and Family Food Ministry”
6. Bechard Family Farm (creator) Facebook Events “RAW MILK COURT CASE: City of Springfield vs. Armand Bechard”
7. Livengood, Chad Springfield News-Leader “Koster sues family for distributing raw milk”