The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle over Food Rights Paperback – Nov 6 2009
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"David Gumpert has chronicled the Raw Milk War with insight and humor. He provides an important record of systematic government bias against Nature's perfect food. Must reading for raw milk fans and government officials alike."--Sally Fallon Morell, President, The Weston A. Price Foundation
"David Gumpert has become the official chronicler of the 'raw milk movement' in the United States. The Raw Milk Revolution is a highly readable expose that successfully captures how the controversy over raw milk is at the center of a larger battle between the industrial food system and the local food movement. Gumpert explains how raw milk, more than any other food, threatens proponents of the 'germ theory,' centralized food production, and the 'nanny state.' The Raw Milk Revolution is an extremely important book because it sounds a clear warning that upholding the right to produce and consume raw milk is critical in preserving our food freedoms in general."--Peter Kennedy, President, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
"David Gumpert employs his expertise as a professional business writer to dig deep and wide into the exploding raw milk controversy. His compelling analysis of the science, economics, politics and history of 'nature's most perfect food' opens the door to a greater understanding of the major challenges facing our food and agriculture systems today. Anyone concerned with the health of our people, our environment and our democracy should heed his words."--Dean Florez, Majority Leader, California State Senate
"If you want to understand the vocal opposition to food safety laws, you should read Gumpert's book. That's not the only reason to read it though. Even if you have little interest in raw milk, I think this book is a key piece in the puzzle to understanding the backwards priorities in America's food safety system."--Jill Richardson, La Vida Locavore review
"In this fascinating book on raw milk, journalist David Gumpert delves into the messy politics of food safety, which pits government technocrats and prosecutors against farmers, consumers and their advocates. It's a compelling account, one that should be read by any raw milk devotee--and more importantly, by anyone concerned about the broken and arbitrary way the government regulates the food we eat."--Samuel Fromartz, author of Organic Inc: Natural Foods and How They Grew
"The raw milk underground is one of the most contentious battlefields in the revolution to reclaim our food from industrialization, over-processing, and corporate control. In this book, David Gumpert investigates in great detail the health claims of both raw milk advocates and public health officials, as well the legal tactics being employed by government agencies to stop the growing movement to obtain and supply raw milk. His comprehensive analysis effectively deconstructs and illuminates the many complex issues of health, safety, and freedom that are raised by this debate."--Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements
About the Author
David E. Gumpert has become a nationally recognized writer and authority on the intersection of food, health, and business by virtue of his widely acclaimed book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, as well as his provocative and popular blog, The Complete Patient (www.thecompletepatient.com), and his many articles about food rights on Grist.org and The Huffington Post. He gained behind-the-scenes access to the key participants and vast government documentation necessary to write Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights. A former reporter with The Wall Street Journal and editor at Inc. and Harvard Business Review, Gumpert has brought his considerable investigative and journalistic experience and business expertise (author or coauthor of seven books about small business and entrepreneurship) to bear in
Joel Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation's most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan's New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. An accomplished author and public speaker, Salatin has authored seven books. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A pension lawyer, I have come to appreciate over the years that security in retirement is not just about monthly checks or 401(k)'s. The most important planning and investment anyone can make for happiness in later years is for good health. My own path to choosing raw milk was driven initially by health concerns. I now see the ongoing struggle in this tiny corner of America's food system as a canary in the coal mine. If we lose these battles for choice in nutrition, there is no telling where it will end.
David's book informs, in highly readable fashion, linkages and background much of which (because of my involvement), I knew. But there is much in his research and writing that I did not know until now, and his compelling telling of the story is thus a real service to the public and to all participants, both advocates, regulators, legislators, and others.
We desperately need more sensible dialogue, and it is my hope that this book will bring the pro's and con's closer together, simply by everyone being better informed. At the same time it illuminates a fundamental struggle for freedom (with responsibility) in the 21st century, for the benefit of a larger public who through this book can come to understand the complexities, as well as to appreciate the challenges of finding the "health" in "healthcare." For without improvements in health, healthcare will consume the country, and there will indeed be a harsher retirement for us all.
The food issue has become so central that the government, normally oblivious to anything that happens outside of the Beltway, has become aware of and is even co-opting the terms and principles of the movement. Manufacturers are legally required to list the ingredients and nutritional values of the food they sell. The term "organic" is no longer a folksy assurance of goodness. It has been quantified and codified. No one may use the term who has not met the stringent standards set by the government.
Still on the fringes but becoming more common with each passing year are those who not only reject the products resulting from the factory farming model, such as enormous feedlots that are so unsanitary that the cows must be fed a steady diet of antibiotics to keep them healthy enough to produce milk or meat (antibiotics that may actually be contributing to rise of "super bugs", antibiotic resistant bacteria), these consumers are also rejecting the preparation methods mandated by law: the pasteurization and homogenization of milk.
Aficionados refer to it as raw milk. Raw milk producers and drinkers are not the wild-eyed fanatics or zany non-conformists. They live all over the country including the Midwest and New England, areas not known for radicalism. They are people who value milk for its nutrition. Nutrition that is destroyed by the processes of pasteurization and homogenization.
Louis Pasteur, credited with the discovery of pasteurization and long seen as a hero, lived during the era of the rise of feedlots, the factory farming of cows. Those lots were, and still are, breeding grounds for diseases of both animals and humans. Pasteurization is necessary to make milk safe to drink. Prior to the Industrial Revolution which brought first workers and then feedlots into the cities, cows were raised exclusively on farms, grazing in pastures during the summer and eating hay in the winter. The resulting milk was safe to drink. Disease was not a large concern.
The raw milk revolution is an attempt to reach back to our roots. Raw milk dairies raise and nurture their cows the old-fashioned way. They observe strict sanitary methods. They are subject to and welcome constant inspections. The consumers who buy their milk and milk products claim that this "natural" product is more healthful than the pasteurized, homogenized, antibiotic filled product found at the local grocer. These health claims are explored in depth in the book.
I have to confess that when I first picked up this book, my "fanatic alarms" were going off. But once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I devoured it in two sittings. The author, David Gumpert, is a journalist who uses his training to give as well-rounded a treatment of the subject of raw milk as possible.
The author admits up front that he is a raw milk drinker. He tries to present as many points of view in the debate as fairly as possible. He interviewed dairy farmers who sell raw milk and raw milk products, consumers who buy raw milk, the parents of children who became ill drinking raw milk and the government agencies, both local and federal, who are doing their best to stop the sale of raw milk. It's that last group that is not well represented but not through lack of trying on Mr. Gumpert's part. He was constantly stonewalled by the very bureaucrats to whom he was trying to give a voice.
This is a well-written, eye-opening book. Anyone who is interested in healthy eating should definitely pick a copy. Before I read this book, you couldn't have paid me to drink raw milk. Now that I am better informed, I am admittedly curious. I'll be keeping an eye out at farmer's markets for raw milk.
Apparently there is a huge battle brewing over food rights, and David Gumpert discusses those in this book. It's quite frightening that our rights are slowly being eroded. You can no longer purchase unpasteurized California almonds (I had to search high & low to find someone who would sell me some), and stores can no longer sell unpasteurized fruit & vegetable juice.
This book will make you angry as you see how the FDA has treated dairy farmers like drug dealers. Unfortunately, the author is all over the place with his case studies. He'll talk about a case in California, then skip to one in New York, then Ohio. At the beginning of chapter 10 he'll talk again about the case he referenced in chapter 4, then in chapter 12 he discusses an incident he mentioned in chapter 1. This happens numerous times throughout the book. Because of this, the book seems very disjointed.
The book has a lot of legal cases, which is only mildly interesting. I think a synopsis of the cases would be fine, but he often goes in depth with multi-page legal cases. Also, a good portion of this book is just quotes from his blog, which gets a little annoying. He'll talk about a case, then say "here's what I posted about ____ on ____," and have 2-3 pages of blog quotes.
I really wish that David Gumpert had gone a little more into the "why." The book doesn't talk about why the FDA is cracking down on raw milk. He briefly mentions that Sheehan (the head of food safety with the FDA) was a patent lawyer for the dairy industry before he joined the FDA in 2000. What he doesn't do is make the connection that a patent lawyer for dairy was most likely working for Monsanto, who has lobbied against raw milk since raw dairy farmers don't use Monsanto's rBGH. There was major lobbying in Alaska by large outside dairy to keep the small local farms from getting any market share.
I also wish that Gumpert had given us some sort of call to action. This is obviously a problem, what do we need to do to fix it?
The bottom line is that this is an interesting topic, but the writing was too disjointed and too focused on specific legal cases instead of the broader topic.
Areas of the book I loved were the areas that deal with the centuries of raw milk and that homogenized pasteurized milk has only been around since post WW2, and that its all about big business and big business wanting to control what people eat and drink. Page 132 'September 2006 there were about 200 cases of illness attributed to bagged spinach, and six attributed to raw milk'. Yet we didn't see state government banning raw vegetables. Why the hypocrisy?
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