Raw milk produced in the Lowcountry: Is it worth the risk?
By Stacy Jacobsonsjacobson@abcnews4.comWADMALAW ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- Most people get their milk from the grocery store, but some people go straight to the source -- the cow.Raw milk is not pasteurized, but that's why some people like it, but it has others turning away.On a picturesque day at Rosebank Plantation Farm, the cows graze under blue skies."They've got a pretty low stress lifestyle out here," farmer Celeste Albers said.Everything is quiet until the work begins.Celeste and George Albers own Sea Island Jerseys. They produce raw milk from their Jersey cows at their farm on Wadmalaw Island.Celeste Albers said she made the decision to produce raw milk after attending a conference in the Midwest where people gave testimonies about the benefits to their farms and bodies."I felt like we had to do it," Albers said. "Because we don't feed high-energy feeds, we only milk once a day. We milk and bottle that day."The Albers said they sanitize everything since the risk for contamination is high."This is like a chlorine disinfectant," George Albers said as he wiped the udders of each cow prior to hooking up the milking machine.The farmers power up the milking machine and let the cows do the rest."She's putting out about 48 gallons a day," George Albers said of one his "highest producers."The milk gets herded into vats that get taken to the bottling hut and loaded on the Albers's Ford pick-up truck ready for delivery around the Lowcountry.All of the Sea Island Jersey cows are only grass fed, so the grass they graze on that week or season will naturally flavor the milk in a different way"There are several people that say that ours is the best. I think that is because of the wholesome grass food and the soil itself," Celeste Albers said of the raw milk.And for Victor Rodriguez, he can savor the taste of home most when he sips his raw milk."I grew up with this anyway, from growing up in Texas. There are lots of farms and cattle there. So it's kind of natural," Rodriguez said.But the risks are well known. Since raw milk hasn't been pasteurized, it carries bacteria both good and bad. Some people embrace the probiotic benefits of the good bacteria, but the bad bacteria can cause serious illness.According to a YouTube video produced by the Food and Drug Administration, "raw milk from cows, sheep, goats or other animals can carry bacteria that can make you sick." The FDA cautions people, especially children and the elderly from drinking the raw, unpasteurized milk.In South Carolina, raw milk is legal to sell, though closely regulated. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control inspects the Albers's facility five times a year and tests samples of the raw milk every month."The South Carolina dairy division of DHEC is a friendly relationship. They want us to make a safe product and they help us to do it," she said.Albers said making raw milk illegal in some states made it less safe because those states can't regulate its production. Though according to the Centers for Disease Control, an outbreak is more likely to happen in states where raw milk is legal."Know your farmer is probably the best advice I could give," Celeste Albers said.There are parents like Shanna Youngblood who know Albers very well. Youngblood and other families have turned milk call in to a weekly tradition.Youngblood has five children; all have been drinking raw cow milk since they were born. She said none ever got sick."We like the good bacteria in it, we like the full health benefits in the raw milk. Nothing's been pasteurized out. It's also great we can support someone locally that's farming and doing a good thing for the community," Youngblood said.According to the CDC, raw milk is illegal in about half of states. It is illegal to carry across state lines.If you're interested in buying Sea Island Jerseys raw milk, you can buy it at the following locations:James Family Chiropractic, SummervilleEVO Bakery, North CharlestonGlass Onion, West AshleyBoone Hall Market, Mount PleasantI'On Health, Mount PleasantCharleston Farmers MarketUrban Marketplace, BeaufortGeer's Barbershop, West Ashley