Tuesday, 11 October 2016 12:55

Stricter raw milk rules fail to curb demand

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Mark Williams has picked a small herd of nine cows for his raw milk venture. Mark Williams has picked a small herd of nine cows for his raw milk venture.

The raw milk movement is gaining momentum despite facing stricter new regulations, according to raw milk advocates Village Milk, Takaka.

Among other changes, the new regulations require individual producers to register under a regulated control scheme.

Village Milk, which had set up a small network of franchises, is no longer offering franchises because it can no longer take responsibility for individual farmers’ compliance. However, it will now act as a consultant to help farmers meet the regulations, advise on and install the specialised vending equipment and set up under their own branding.

The new regulations took effect from March 1, with existing raw milk providers given until November 1 to comply.

Village Milk managing director Richard Houston says many people around the country were concerned they would not be able to get supplies after that time but he says the new rules are “good for the product and good for the consumer”.

Houston says the main requirement is that farmers must adhere to strict monitoring, testing and hygiene protocols. While responsible raw milk suppliers will already be maintaining good hygiene, Village Milk can provide formal management plans for them to put into practice, he says.

With guidance from Village Milk, Mark Williams, of Aylesbury, 30km west of Christchurch, is about to launch his own raw milk under the Aylesbury Creamery brand and hopes to be selling in a week or two. His main herd of about 500 will continue supplying Fonterra, but he has chosen nine young cows for raw milk supply and is already milking them separately under the stricter protocols.

He has bought new testing equipment and refrigeration plant and two Italian vending machines, one to sell reusable glass bottles and the other to dispense the chilled milk. Both will accept cash or a pre-loaded loyalty card.

One of the new regulations requires bottles to be labelled with health warnings, and Williams’ branding will be carried on dishwasher-proof labels on the bottles, which customers can date with a whiteboard marker and bring back to the farm for refilling.

A staunch advocate of raw milk, Houston says its value lies in the natural flora it contains. Customers believe raw milk helps dispel ailments such as asthma, excema and psoriasis.

As long as proper hygiene is followed, dangerous bacteria such as E Coli should not be present, he says. “We’ve come a long way from the day when we had to start pasteurising milk.”

Houston says pasteurisation kills all bugs in milk, but the dead bacteria stay in the milk and will eventually rot, making it rancid. But the natural flora of raw milk maintain a balance, so instead of going rancid the milk will naturally turn into a kind of cheese after a couple of weeks.

Houston says cleanliness in the milking shed is “massive.” “Probably half of the milking procedure is preparation before you even put the cups on.”

Cows that appear off-colour will not be used, and all cows’ teats are carefully inspected and manually cleaned with water and antiseptic iodine sprays. The milk itself is checked for the clumpiness that may indicate mastitis, before the cups are applied.

MPI regulations

- Only farmers meeting the requirements may register to sell raw milk

- Off-farm collection points are not allowed

- Raw milk must be labelled with use-by dates, information on refrigeration, contact details of the farmer, and specific warnings for consumers in high-risk groups such as the young, pregnant, elderly and those with weakened immune systems

- Consumers may buy as much as they like for their own consumption but it cannot resold in any form

- Farmers must keep a register of customers – albeit voluntary.

 

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