White Egret Farm (WEF) has been supplying Grade A raw goat milk, raw milk cheeses, goat yogurts, and natural beef, pork, goat and turkey from its location in Austin, Texas to health conscious consumers and babies with wise parents since 1992.
In August of 2000 the farm was raided by inspectors from three divisions of the Texas Department of Health (TDH). The inspectors alleged that the farm was in violation of more than forty different health and safety violations, and further that it had deceived the public with the language on its website. Biologist/owner Lee Dexter defended the practice of selling raw milk by overwhelming the Attorney General’s Office with more than 2,500 pages of scientific literature relating to the safety and efficacy of raw goat milk and raw milk cheeses. In the aftermath, the TDH engaged in a flurry of dirty tricks. Inspectors detained the farm’s products in multiple locations and “paid visits” to its customers and processors. The TDH strategy culminated in the issuing of an Emergency Order prohibiting the sale of the farm’s cheeses in late 2001. Simultaneously, the TDH published an extremely damaging press release, which was widely distributed.
The farm did get its day in court. After hearing two days of testimony in December 2001, Administrative Law Judge, Cathleen Parsley, issued a Proposal for Decision lifting the Emergency Order. The judge stated that the Emergency Order had “pummeled Ms. Dexter’s business, and, as it turns out, with little legal justification to do so.” She also stated that the Department had held the farm liable for violations against regulations that were not yet in effect, did not prohibit the activity cited, were not applicable, or did not say what the TDH interpreted them to say. She concluded that the TDH failed to show how the alleged misconduct posed a threat to human health. In more recent court settings, WEF has defended its right to sell its products directly to the consumer. The outcome of these cases may have far-reaching implications for the rights of both consumers and producers of raw milk products in other states.