Raw Pet Milk Sales Legal in Maryland

By Pete Kennedy, Esq.

Raw pet milk sales are now legal in Maryland, one of the most anti-raw milk states in the U.S. A grass-based dairy, P.A. Bowen Farmstead of Brandywine, has obtained approval1 to sell raw pet milk from the Maryland Department of Agriculture. P.A. Bowen Farmstead, owned and operated by Weston A. Price Foundation president and FTCLDF board member Sally Fallon Morell and her husband Geoffrey, has begun selling raw milk at its on-farm store.

The sale of raw milk for human consumption has long been illegal in Maryland. In 2006, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH) issued an emergency regulation banning herdshare contracts; a court challenge to the herdshare ban was unsuccessful. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the center of opposition to raw milk in this country, has its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and major offices in Rockville and College Park. In 2012 FDA obtained an injunction from a federal district court preventing Pennsylvania farmer Dan Allgyer from shipping raw milk and raw milk products in interstate commerce; he was selling raw dairy products to a Maryland-based buyers club. FDA undercover agents obtained raw milk at the private homes of club members to build the case against the farmer.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to pass legislation legalizing the sale or distribution of raw milk for human consumption but delegate Peter Hammen, the chairman of the Maryland House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee, has been able to stop all raw milk bills from getting out of his committee.

As far as is known, the Maryland Department of Agriculture had never approved the sale of raw pet milk by a Maryland producer; it had approved a Pennsylvania dairy and a California dairy, which are still selling raw pet milk in the state. Maryland now joins other states such as Florida, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina in allowing the sale of raw milk for animal consumption.

Despite the state’s regulatory ban on banning herdshare agreements, there is still a possibility that farmers and dairy livestock owners would be able to enter into a legal herdshare contract. In a 2009 opinion rejecting a challenge to the herdshare ban on the facts of the case before it, a Maryland appellate court in its decision stated:

  1. It is not illegal in Maryland for the owner of a dairy cow to drink the raw milk which that cow produces;
  2. It is not illegal in Maryland to sell a fractional interest in a herd of dairy cattle; and
  3. It is not Illegal in Maryland for an agister to provide agistment services by boarding and caring for dairy cows owned by others.2

“Agister” is a legal term for someone who provides services for the boarding and care of livestock.

There are now less than ten states that prohibit any sale or distribution of raw milk for human or animal consumption. Watch for updates of the Raw Milk Nation map.

Congratulations to Sally Fallon Morell for breaking new ground in Maryland and for taking a significant step towards the legalization of raw milk for human consumption. At least two other Maryland farms have since obtained permits to sell pet milk and we expect many others to join the list.

Notes

  1. The way the approval process works in Maryland is that a producer interested in selling pet milk files an application and a label for registration of the product with the Office of the State Chemist, a division of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. If the State Chemist approves the application and label, then the applicant is officially registered and can start selling the product.
  2. Kevin Oyarzo v. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene et al, 187 Md. App. 264, 268 (2009).

Pete Kennedy

Pete Kennedy is an attorney from Sarasota, Florida and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (farmtoconsumer.org). He compiled the state milk laws posted at realmilk.com. He advises many farmers and members about legal issues surrounding raw milk.

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