We’re so excited to announce that we’ll be working with Creambrook Farm, a central Virginia farm that offers 100% grass-fed raw milk herd shares. What does this mean and why are we excited? As you may know, the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is still illegal in the US. However, drinking raw milk from a cow that you own is not. So farms all over the country have started to participate in what is known as “herd sharing” programs. It works a lot like a traditional produce CSA in that the consumer pays upfront to buy a portion of a herd. Then they pay a monthly fee that acts as a boarding fee. From this, a herd share member gets a portion of the raw milk that the cows produce.
Creambrook Farm owners, Ben and Kristen Beichler, has compared the interest in raw milk to the growing interest in the craft beer industry. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch Ben has been quoted a saying, “What most people don’t realize is that, same as tap houses and local breweries, each dairy has its own specific flavor, depending on the breed of cow they’re milking, the feed the cows are consuming (and) the management involved in milking. You can get multitudes of really unique flavors from farm to farm.” This is likely why raw milk is of great interest to cheesemakers as well as other members of the culinary world.
The concern around raw milk tends to be with regard to the harmful bacteria that are supposed to be killed during the pasteurization process, which came about for milk specifically in the mid-1800s. At the time, the pasteurization process was crucial in preventing food-borne illnesses. However, it often wasn’t the raw milk itself that was unsafe, but instead the lack of sanitation in the processing area. The concept of germs as a cause of illnesses was still new at this time and so sanitation wasn’t a top priority. Thus, it was fairly easy for dangerous microbes to contaminate raw milk. Flash forward to the year 2020 and now we see that due to great increases in levels of sanitation, drinking raw milk from a quality source today is about as dangerous as consuming raw oysters or sushi, which is why it is always best to know the source of your milk (really all of your food). From this, we can see that high-quality animal husbandry practices used in raw milk production are extremely important, and we would never advocate drinking raw milk from commercial dairy production. Raw milk herd shares usually guarantee a more open pasture space with fewer animals and therefore cleaner and safer environments for milk production.
Even though it isn’t required by Virginia law, each batch of raw milk produced at Creambrook farm is tested for purity and quality. If you’re considering switching your family to a raw milk option, it is always best to get to know your farmer. You can check out their website here and even attend a tour at their location.