Raw Pet Dairy Now Legal in New Jersey

by Pete Kennedy, Esq.

On paper the sale of raw dairy products for pet consumption is legal in all 50 states; the trouble has been that in many states regulators have improperly prohibited the sale of raw pet dairy by producers and distributors. Recently in New Jersey, pet owners and other supporters of raw dairy were successful in defeating an attempt by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDH) to stop the sale of any raw pet dairy products in the state.

On January 14, NJDH sent cease-and-desist letters to distributors and retail stores selling raw dairy products for pet consumption, threatening enforcement if they continued to sell raw pet dairy. Health officials followed up on the letter by raiding multiple pet food stores and confiscating raw dairy. There were no allegations that raw pet dairy was causing any illness.

NJDH exceeded its lawful powers in two respects. First, it is the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) that has jurisdiction over the production and sale of all feed for animal consumption. Second, New Jersey regulations allow the sale of raw pet dairy in the state.

Manufacturers of raw pet food dairy sell their products in dozens of New Jersey pet stores. Reaction from pet owners and other supporters was strong against NJDH. Many contacted NJDH, NJDA and their legislators to complain about the state action. Representatives for raw pet dairy manufacturers and advocates made their case to the two agencies about how NJDH had exceeded its authority.

On April 20 Rhea Landig, the executive director of Species Alliance, held Pet Food Justice in Branchburg, an event featuring speakers on the health benefits for pets and humans of raw dairy as well as the regulatory climate and laws governing raw pet dairy production and sales. Speakers included Weston A. Price Foundation president Sally Fallon Morell, Rutgers professor Joe Heckman, Cathy Alinovi of the Next Generation Pet Food Manufacturers Association, Susan Thixton of the consumer advocate group Association for Truth in Pet Food and Billy Hockman of Answers Pet Food, one of the manufacturers hurt by the NJDH action.

The event showed the potential for collaboration between those advocating legal raw pet dairy sales and those supporting legal raw milk sales for human consumption. If raw milk sales for human consumption were legal in New Jersey, NJDH never would have taken any action against distributors and retail stores selling raw pet dairy. On May 10 NJDH issued a public statement: “Distributors and retailers selling raw milk pet food will not be subject to enforcement action by the Department of Health.” With state regulators acknowledging the legality of raw pet dairy sales, it would be good for New Jersey to get on with the business of legalizing raw milk sales for human consumption; the ban has lost New Jersey farmers millions of dollars in sales to Pennsylvania dairy producers. The time to act is now; currently, there are 40 Grade A dairies left in the state.