Mississippi allows the ‘incidental’ sale of raw goat milk so long as certain requirements are met. By incidental, we mean that there will be no commercial farm operations producing high volumes of raw goat milk and selling it to the public. Here’s a brief summary of the law:
- The farm cannot advertise the sale of raw goat milk
- The milk must be purchased on site, at the farm where the milk is produced
- There can be no more than 9 lactating goats on site
- The milking area must be clean
- The milking area must have a cement or comparable floor
- The milking area must have walls or screens that prevent insects from entering
- Sterile containers must be used
- At least one fly trap must be present in the room
There are a handful of ‘Grade A’ goat milk dairies in the state of MS. These are farms that pasteurize their goat milk, are inspected by the state, and can sell cheese products etc. It requires a hefty financial investment to build a facility that meets the requirements for Grade A certification. The last time I checked there were only 2 or 3 such goat dairies in the state. These are the only goat milk dairies that are registered with the state and regularly inspected (same as cow dairies). The rest of the farms producing non-pasteurized goat milk are not registered and not regularly inspected. However, any farm that sells raw goat milk may receive a visit by the MS Dept. of Health at any time.
The consumption of raw milk is a passionate subject in our nation. Mississippi doesn’t permit the sale of raw cow milk under any circumstances. Whereas some states permit the sale of raw cow milk and even allow them to deliver it. Such farms are registered and inspected. During the 2023 MS legislative session there was at least one bill submitted to expand the ‘freedom’ to purchase and sell raw milk. The bill died in committee and can be read here.
There’s a couple of sides to this debate and each deserve objective study. In my opinion, pasteurization does kill bacteria in the milk and makes it safer for a national market. Most people have no relationship with farms and don’t know where their milk is coming from. Commercial dairies are heavily inspected and sanitation guidelines are enforced. Raw milk isn’t likely to be inspected, and you’re relying on the farmer to uphold their end of the bargain to keep things clean.
My father was born in 1943 and milked cows as a boy each day. They used it raw. I doubt it was the cleanest environment. They all drank and used this milk, as did hundreds of thousands of other families. To my knowledge, none of my family ever became ill from consuming raw milk.
That being said, we are no longer living in the 1940’s and the general population has gotten used to regulated, pasteurized milk. It’s taken for granted that milk is safe and you have nothing to worry about.
Emma Wilder Farm has been a vendor at several Mississippi Made events hosted by Laurel Mercantile. At one of the events last year we met an older couple from Pennsylvania. The gentleman and I began discussing goats, as he had grown up on a goat farm in PA. His family had around 50 Saanen milk goats and they sold raw goat milk to the local hospital. Pasteurization laws were passed and they were forced to shut down their dairy. I offer this story as an example of how life used to be. There was a time when raw milk was taken for granted and folks thought they had nothing to worry about.
Our country, like most countries, had a much closer relationship with agriculture and farming in decades past. There’s a lot of cultural knowledge that is gone. It takes routine, sanitation, and education to produce safe dairy products. I don’t know the future of raw milk. I’ll just say get to know your producers. Take a tour and see how they operate. I think most Americans agree that we’ve all had enough of overly processed foods. There’s a push now for farm-to-table meals, for getting closer to the farm, for getting healthier food. And I think it’s here to stay.