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Regulations to refine how raw milk is sold for pets
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Jan. 31, 2017) — Raw milk for pets or pet food containing it would have to carry a clearly visible warning about its lack of pasteurization and pet milk couldn’t be sold in something that looks like a typical milk container under proposed state regulations released this month.
The raw milk regulations are part of a series related to pet food and specialty food the Maryland Department of Agriculture released Jan. 20.
They address, in part, a small but growing corner of the dairy industry where newly licensed farmers are selling raw, milk for pet food directly to consumers.
Pet milk distributed in the state would have to carry the following disclaimer: “Warning: Not For Human Consumption — This Product Has Not Been Pastuerized, May Contain Harmful Bacteria And May Cause Foodborne Illness.”
The regulations mandate the warning’s type sizes based on the size of the container’s panel, and the words “raw milk” must also appear “conspicuously” on the main display panel. In a retail environment, it also can’t be sold with or near pasteurized milk for humans.
Since allowing pet milk to be sold in the state or inside pet food products two years ago, 12 products have been registered with the state and six are pending, said Kevin Conroy, an assistant secretary at the department.
“The pet milk market is a niche market and some small producers may benefit, but we do not currently see it as having a large financial upside for the conventional dairy industry,” Conroy said in an e-mail to The Delmarva Farmer when asked about the potential for pet milk production in the state.
Sally Fallon Morell is one of those small producers. She co-founded with her husband the Weston A. Price Foundation in Washington, which has advocated for the legalization of raw milk sales nationwide. The foundation maintains an online listing of raw milk producers for consumers.
Though Morell said she follows the state’s regulations strictly, including changing her pet milk containers to adhere to the state’s new regulations, she doesn’t believe most, if any, of her customers buy the milk for their pets.
“We can’t say people are drinking it, we can’t tell people to drink it,” she said. “But I’d be lying if I said they weren’t drinking it.”
Her farm, P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Brandywine, Md., sells between 150 and 200 gallons of pet milk each month for $6 per half gallon, she said. Each new batch is tested for coliform, though that’s not required by the state.
Morell said she and other pet milk producers in Maryland are thrilled with the new regulations because they’re creating a new business opportunity for dairy farmers currently suffering under the weight of cratering conventional milk prices and declining demand from consumers.
“This gives farmers in Maryland a fair opportunity to take advantage of that demand,” she said.
But Conroy said it’s critical farmers do not sell raw pet milk to consumers who plan to drink it themselves. “If a producer is aware that their product is being consumed by humans, then they are not following the regulations,” he said. “The regulations specifically forbid producers from selling pet milk for human consumption. If they knowingly sell it for this purpose they risk losing their registration and could incur civil financial penalties.”
The state will take public comments on the regulations through Feb. 15, and a public hearing will be held at the department, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, at 1 p.m. on Feb. 13.