By Pete Kennedy, Esq.
For the past decade, Allen and Cheryl Voortman of Pride and Joy Creamery in Granger, Washington, have produced high-quality raw milk that has benefited the health of thousands of their customers. At the beginning of 2017, Pride and Joy Creamery was one of the largest raw milk dairies in Washington, distributing their nutrient-dense product throughout the state. Long certified as a 100% grass-fed organic dairy, Pride and Joy received the highest rating given by the nonprofit organic industry watchdog Cornucopia Institute to organic milk producers—a rating given only to ten other dairies in the country.
Sadly, today, Pride and Joy Creamery is out of the retail raw milk business and only produces raw milk for pasteurization. The Voortmans no longer have the herd that produced raw milk for direct consumption. Two shutdowns of the dairy engineered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) led the Voortmans to make the decision to end their raw milk operation.
In February 2017, WSDA and the Washington Department of Public Health accused the dairy’s raw milk of making two people ill with salmonella poisoning. It is not known whether public health officials tried to find any other foods the two sick individuals might have consumed in common once it was discovered that each drank the dairy’s raw milk. WSDA sent samples of the dairy’s raw milk to the state lab; while the samples were negative for salmonella, two samples were positive for shiga-toxin producing e-coli (STEC), a result the department used to pressure the Voortmans into conducting a voluntary recall of the dairy’s raw milk which ultimately resulted in the dairy being shut down for over two months. WSDA produced no evidence that the STEC it found in the milk samples was capable of making anyone sick.
In September, milk samples taken by WSDA tested positive for salmonella, eventually leading the department to suspend the dairy’s license to produce raw milk. When samples WSDA took in October were also positive for salmonella, the Voortmans shut down their raw milk operation for good rather than incur the tremendous expense it would have taken to get WSDA’s approval to start up again. Samples from the same batch of milk that the Voortmans sent to an accredited laboratory in Idaho were all negative for salmonella. During this time, there were no reports of illness caused by the consumption of raw milk. A November post on the Pride and Joy Facebook page announcing the end of the dairy’s retail raw milk business noted, “the bureaucracy, financial burden and uncertainty of this business is now too much for us.”
There is something wrong with the Washington regulatory system when one of the state’s most popular dairies is forced out of business even though its raw milk has arguably made no one sick. Pride and Joy is not the only Washington raw milk dairy to go out of business in recent months; since around the middle of the year, three other dairies have turned in their permits. The four farms account for about ten percent of the total number of licensed Washington raw milk dairies. WSDA’s actions helped shatter in a matter of months a business that a hard-working, conscientious family had taken years to build.
Pete Kennedy is a Florida attorney who has worked on issues governing raw milk production and distribution since 2004. He compiled a summary of raw milk laws in each of the fifty states and is currently a consultant for WAPF on, among other things, policies and laws regarding raw milk. Pete was a founding board member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and served as vice president and then president for many years. He has consulted on and drafted raw milk, cottage foods, and food sovereignty legislation; drafted and reviewed herdshare agreements; worked on embargo, seizure, and recall cases involving raw dairy products; worked on foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to raw milk consumption; handled issues involving on-farm slaughter, custom meat, and poultry processing as well as problems with zoning and local ordinances.