While most people would agree that pasteurized milk laws have made society safer and healthier, the article The Long Term Health Consequences of Pasteurized Milk Laws outlines why this is just simply not true and has merely transferred the short term health problems that dairies with poor health practices created (and would have been quickly solved if consumers had simply been allowed to choose milk from honest healthy dairies instead of having pasteurized milk forced onto them) to long term chronic health consequences spread out to society as a whole.

This companion article goes on to show the economic and societal consequences unrelated to health that have also been caused by these laws. I’ll show you why laws designed to protect people in the short term often have serious unintended consequences that cause us to be less protected in the long term, just as occured in government’s stance on the Cholesterol and Saturate Fat debate.

Unfortunately, both legislators and consumers rarely see these problems as being caused by the laws that they created and often rail for government to create more laws to protect them from the unintended consequences in a never ending fight that would have been prevented in the first place by not creating the original law at all.

Pasteurized Milk Laws Favor Bad Businesses

In order to understand why these ‘Pure Milk’ laws actually discriminate and favor badly run unhealthy dairies over clean well-run dairies, it’s helpful to understand why these laws came about. Until the 1920’s, most milk came from small local dairies, but as the population became greater and city centers became more concentrated dairies attempted to innovate and find ways to produce more milk at less cost in a shorter amount of time by placing more cows into a smaller space than they could allowing them to graze.

Many of these early ‘feed lots’ began by feeding cows the ‘dregs’ from brewing beer and distilling spirits. Often, the cows were kept in crowded, filthy stalls directly behind the brewery or distillery where they could feed the ‘slops’ directly to the animals who had no access to pasture and were badly cared for. The consequences of this was poor quality milk that had lower nutrition, was thinner and watery with less fat content and had more pathogens in it and it contributed to illness.

Many people, particularly babies, did become sick and the people began protesting against these dairies and refused to buy milk from cows fed brewery slops. Unfortunately, during this time when people began protesting and refusing to buy milk from cows fed on slops, a man by the name of Robert M. Hartley joined the fight and successfully campaigned to get ‘Pure Milk’ laws passed.

Hartley Won, So Did Bad Business Practices

His campaign was successful and New York passed the first milk laws to ‘protect’ us. While these laws CERTAINLY saved a certain number of people, particularly children, from becoming sick, and likely saved some from dying, the spontaneous consumer outrage had already started to get rid of the unhealthy and unclean conditions that were causing the illness to begin with.

Time and consumer choice would have taken care of the problem without the need for laws or government to be involved at all. People were choosing, with their wallets, not to do business with these bad dairies. They wanted clean milk and they didn’t need laws to get it for them. They would simply purchase milk only from farms that produced clean and healthy milk.

The great irony of these laws is that, not only did the milk laws allow unclean feed lots to continue when a free market without these laws would have put them out of business, but now it actually FAVORED these unhealthy dairies over the healthy ones.

The fact that it required a higher cost to produce milk under clean conditions was even an argument FOR these laws at the time which gave the unhealthy and unclean milk producers an economic advantage over those dairies who kept their cows in healthy conditions at a higher cost!

“As to pasteurization, its cost is negligible, while the cost
of cleanliness is two, four, or ten cents a quart.”
‘The Fight For Clean Milk’

Feed Lot Dairy Cows

Cows Being Fed Grains in Crowded Conditions


Instead of demanding that farmers produce a healthy and clean product naturally free of pathogens, the law simply demanded that unhealthy milk have the bacteria, healthy and unhealthy, killed. The companian article to this one, The Long Term Health Consequences of Pasteurized Milk Laws discusses the health consequences of these laws. Now these unclean and crowded feed lot dairies are the norm, while small clean dairies that allow their cows to graze on pasture are few and far between.

In fact, some dairies Even Feed Their Cows Cookies and Doughnuts to save money, not much better than feeding them brewery slops.  For those who are against the government favoring large corporations and the ‘crony capitalism’ of today, this story is an excellent example of why laws that are designed to ‘protect’ consumers actually quite often have the unintended consequence of favoring large corporate entities and actually discriminating against the very companies that would have or who were already providing a safe product to consumers.

Loss of Freedoms

In the even longer term, these ‘pure milk’ laws have actually taken away freedoms from both consumers and businesses that can never be regained. Most consumers have lost the freedom to purchase raw milk from responsible producers since selling raw milk for human consumption is banned in most states. While there are those who don’t believe that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, there are also those that DO believe it is healthier.

Even those who believe all milk should be pasteurized for the ‘good of society’ can’t deny that those who wish to produce and sell safe raw milk and those who wish to buy it have lost their freedom to do so. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear about Federal agents doing midnight raids on Amish farms, confiscating their raw milk and arresting the producers. These family farms that have often produced safe milk with no reports of illness in over a century of production now face long and expensive federal court cases in which a loss means hard time in a federal prison- for a crime with no victim.

Since it is now engrained in the American psyche that raw milk is dangerous and unhealthy, despite its having been consumed safely for tens of thousands of years, these laws can never be repealed and the loss of the small dairies and their knowledge of the production of safe raw milk can never be regained.

Even worse, the essential freedom of choice to start a business and the freedom to choose a product that you feel is best for you and your family has been completely lost for most people. To change the system back to allow these freedoms will take much fighting, much court time and much money that could have been better spent on productive endeavors in the economy.

This is money, time and freedoms that never would have been lost had the powerful lobby of consumer choice been allowed to force unfit dairies out of business, which it would have in a short period. In the end, if the government had done absolutely nothing, we would have retained our freedoms and had purer milk from healthier cows than we do today.

Kerri Knox is a registered nurse, hobby Austrian economist, world traveler and vociferous proponent of freedom who, when not writing about health on her websites, Easy Immune Health,  Side Effects Site, and Anemia Central , and managing the community advocacy site FQResearch.org, she is advocating for individual rights, liberty, and common sense.