Raw Milk Victory in California

by Ann Marie Michaels on June 25, 2008

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I Heart Raw Milk

I cannot even express how awesome it was to watch the victory for raw milk at the state capitol in Sacramento yesterday.

Here’s my photo essay of what happened:

Annie was at my house at 5 am sharp, her kids buckled into their car seats in the back seat. I got Kate loaded into the car, with all of our gear and snacks and strollers, and we headed north on the 5. (Those are Annie’s sweetie pies, AJ, 13 months, and Cara, 2 1/2, and Kate is on the right.)

Road Trip to the Captiol

We reached Sacramento around noon, got checked into our hotel, and then walked with our strollers over to the capitol (about 10 blocks away from our hotel). We met up with our friend Angelique on the way to the capitol (she had driven up from San Francisco).

The State Capitol of California

The Governator's Office

The first person we saw when we got to the second floor was Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy. He said, “You guys have raw milk written all over you!”

I said, “We drove up from Los Angeles!”

He thanked us profusely for coming.

I put my hands in his and said, “We wouldn’t miss it. We are so grateful for everything you do.”

Meeting Mark McAfee

Kate and Mark McAfee

When Kate met Mark McAfee, I know this sounds odd, but she did not want to let go of him. I think kids are the acid test for how genuine adults are. Kate hugged and hugged him, and he hugged her right back. He didn’t want to put her down.

He said, “This is why we do what we do. It’s for the children.”

Kate and Mark McAfee

We got our t-shirts and pins and head toward our seats.

The next two hours were grueling — due to babies who would not nap. Annie and I paced the halls with our babes in slings, trying to bounce and soothe them to sleep, while Angelique worked tirelessly to tire out toddler, Cara.

Finally the raw milk bill came up. We were asked to stand and show our support of raw milk. It was amazing how many people showed up. There were so many kids in attendance!


When everyone was done testifying, the voting began. I had been watching the bills come up before this one, and many good ones had been shot down. There were bills about taking the lead out of lipstick and BPAs out of baby bottles, and allowing surveillance cameras to record what happens in factory farm slaughter houses. We saw industry take these well-meaning bills out — due to lobbyists and money.

But when the raw milk bill came up, to our amazement, everyone said, “Aye.” One after another. It was unanimous. They said, “You can go ahead and applaud now.” And the whole room erupted in applause.

We all cried. It was that emotional.

You Gotta Love Mark McAfee

Here we are celebrating… we had Guinness and Dungeness crab and Guinness (I had a vodka martini). After dinner, we went out for ice cream!

Raw milk victory!

Celebrating our raw milk victory
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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

mike June 25, 2008 at 8:56 PM

congrats!! now you can risk your kids lives and safety in the name of your own political hangups. awesome. why dont you ask little Melissa Herzog about her experience with mr mcafees product. 2 months in the ICU with kidney failure??? but he still has a wayyyy bigger profit margin that pasteurized producers!! awesome.


cheeseslave June 25, 2008 at 9:15 PM

Hi, Mike,

Thanks for your comment.

Have you actually done your research on this?

“How do you respond to a parent who accuses you of aiding and abetting the company that made her daughter seriously ill? I’ve been grappling with that question for the last ten days, since I received an email from Melissa Herzog, the mother of one of the five children who became ill in California last September in cases that have been associated with Organic Pastures Dairy Co.

Since receiving the email, I have gained a further education into the complexities of tracking E.coli illness, along with the dangerous blame game that can develop after someone gets sick.

In the email, Melissa berated me for my original BusinessWeek.com article about Organic Pastures, where I quoted owner Mark McAfee as saying that two of the children who became ill had consumed spinach. (At the time the article came out, four children’s illnesses had been identified by state authorities as possibly related to Organic Pastures’ raw milk; a fifth was added later.)

“I am the mother of the 10-year-old little girl that got sick and she did NOT have any spinach,” Melissa wrote. “It outrages me that he (McAfee) doesn’t have his story right and it gets into print. She, like the other 4 children, had Organic Pastures raw milk (without my knowledge) and became sick exactly 3 days later (when e-coli makes itself known). I’m not a dairy owner nor a doctor but it seems to me it is the likely reason my daughter became sick.”

She went on to say that her daughter, Lauren, had drunk the milk while at another person’s home, and had “spent two months in a hospital fighting for her life.”

I wrote Melissa twice requesting to speak with her, but she didn’t respond to my emails. I wanted to learn more about her daughter’s experience—how her recovery has gone, how much raw milk she had consumed, whether she had ever had it before, what evidence Melissa had that the E.coli came from Organic Pastures’ milk, etc.

However, I was able to locate one of the other key people in this situation—the woman who fed Lauren the raw milk. It turns out that Melissa is divorced from Lauren’s father, Peter Herzog, and their daughter spends time with both parents. Peter has been seriously involved with a woman in Rancho Mirage, CA, Chelsea Higholt.

Lauren spent last Labor Day weekend with her father, at Chelsea’s home, along with Chelsea’s two children from a previous marriage. As Chelsea recalls it, Lauren consumed a miniscule amount of raw milk—part of a smoothie Chelsea made for four of them that included strawberries, banana, vegetable protein powder, coconut milk, and one-third cup of raw milk. “We’d been drinking raw milk for three months, and we don’t drink very much,” says Chelsea.

Lauren became sick a few days later, after returning to her mother, and Melissa notified public health officials. Chelsea responded to their inquiries, providing a run-down of the foods they had consumed, and when raw milk came up, the officials wanted to know more. She volunteered the container of Organic Pastures raw milk, which was tested and found not to contain any E.coli.

“I’m really confused about how E.coli was in the milk,” says Chelsea. “Why wouldn’t my three-year-old and five-year-old have gotten sick?”

Unlike Melissa, Chelsea isn’t convinced it was the raw milk that made Lauren sick. “I’d be the first person, if it made my kid sick, to say, ‘Let’s get rid of the milk.’”

She speculates that Lauren might have become ill from a hamburger she had with her mother. She recalls herself becoming sick from hamburger a few years ago.

She also blames doctors for giving Lauren antibiotics, which appear to have made her case much more serious than it likely would have been otherwise. She adds that Lauren has recovered well from her ordeal.

But Melissa isn’t ready to give in to other possibilities. In her email to me, she added, “Most people have grown up drinking pasturized/homogenized milk and have lived normal, healthy lives. Unfortunately, there are a lot of extremists in this world. I believe that people should have the right to choose what they eat or drink, but an innocent child, that was normal and healthy and did not need to be put on any freak Organic diet, should not have been given this milk. Adults should be more mindful and heed warning labels.!!!!!!!!”

Mark McAfee is as puzzled as Chelsea. He confirms that Lauren was diagnosed with E.coli 0157:H7. But he points out again that just as no E.coli was found in Chelsea’s milk, no E.coli was found in any of his milking cows.”



Henriette June 26, 2008 at 12:07 AM

Thank you for setting this out straight !


peacefulacres June 26, 2008 at 4:13 AM

Tears fill my eyes!!!!!!!! :D You guys rock! Thanks for devoting your time, your money and your sanity! We are indebted to you. I will have to blog again…..for this is one Giant that was defeated!

Have a sweet restful day Ann Marie. Oh and by the way, you are looking GOOD! I can see the weight loss. Good job all around!



Dawn June 26, 2008 at 4:52 AM

Yeah! From the East Coast to you! Thanks! They say from
CA to the East Coast to the country. To Mike, this is not politics, this is freedom! My children have been drinking Raw Milk for a couple of years and are consistantly less likely to get the illness’ running through our community. We only see the Dr. once a year for a check up! We all make choices for our kids we think are best, sometimes we are right. Raw milk has proven to be a good choice for my family for several years now.


Jeannette June 26, 2008 at 5:20 AM

It looks like you guys had a great time! :)

As for mike’s comment above, there is some sort of risk involved with eating ANY food, particularly living foods that haven’t been sterilized, quite literally, to death. I don’t understand where people get the notion that we live in a sterile world. Who the heck do they think THEY are that they should have the right to dictate the foods that should be available to consumers? As if everyone should be limited to dead, sterile foods because of their own “hang-ups” about the element of unpredictability that is associated with life in general. If you don’t believe that raw milk is safe, you’re free to NOT purchase and consume it.


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 5:32 AM

Mark McAfee said (in the quote above) that there was no e coli in his milking cows. Did they test the hamburger the child ate? I think it’s much more likely that she got sick from a fast food hamburger that from Organic Pastures milk. Cows from factory farms stand around knee-deep in their own manure. At Organic Pastures, the cows roam freely on pasture.

I think it’s sad that people are so quick to blame raw milk when someone gets sick. These days you can get salmonella from Malt-o-Meal (it was recalled for salmonella a few months ago). If someone gets sick, I think they need to look at everything they are eating before they can say it’s raw milk.


Christine Kennedy June 26, 2008 at 5:35 AM

It looks like you guys had a great day! Something that I would have been very proud to participate in myself! I have been filled with joy upon learning of this wonderful victory! If people like Mike don’t want to drink raw, they don’t have to, but the consumers who are truly educated, should have the freedom of that opportunity, it is a basic human right, to feed our bodies with whatever we so choose.

Sally Fallon pointed out in an article once that deli meat posed a much higher risk for e-coli poisoning than clean, raw milk ever could. E-coli is everywhere, and if we were all tested at any given time, we would find it probably residing in our own gi tracts. If however, you have enough beneficial bacteria in your gut, it will keep the potentially bad ones, like e-coli at bay, and you will not become sick.

Thank-you for taking a stand Ann Marie (and Annie and Angelique!) You are all an inspiration!


fightingwindmills June 26, 2008 at 6:16 AM

Those are great photos! The photos of Kate and Mark make me cry they are so sweet. I’m glad you all had a positive experience and got the bill passed.


cbrunette June 26, 2008 at 6:43 AM

Wild happy dance in celebration! THANK YOU for going to make your voice/presence heard for raw milk!



Maria June 26, 2008 at 7:27 AM

Sweet victory, so happy for you guys in cali!


Julie June 26, 2008 at 7:44 AM

Thanks for going! My 4 1/2 twin boys are finishing their raw milk as I type.


Erica June 26, 2008 at 7:44 AM

I’m so happy that the day was a success!! My hats off to you guys. I hope this helps pave the way for other states also.


Kelsey June 26, 2008 at 9:15 AM

Woo-hoo! I have tears in my eyes too. What a beautiful victory. Katie’s pretty young to be forward-facing in her carseat, even for a big strong girl. Rear-facing would still be safer at this point. (And please disregard this if it were a one-time-thing for the road trip. I am seriously impressed by the long car trip w/ 3 little ones.)


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 9:34 AM

Hi, thanks Kelsey! :-)

I’m comfortable with forward-facing. She’s been forward-facing for a few months now.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the child be 20 pounds and one year of age before switching them to a forward facing car seat. Katie is 14 months old and 26 pounds.

Ann Marie


Kelsey June 26, 2008 at 10:01 AM

You’re right. That is the minimum age and weight. Of course there is a maximum for rear-facing, as well–probably 35 pounds on a convertible. So, you do what you gotta do. With my first son, we turned him around ASAP b/c he hated rear-facing and cried all the time in the car. Anyway, I’m really enjoying your blog!


Jungleen June 26, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Yay! I was anxiously waiting to hear some details! Looks like you all had such a great time. You are all such amazing ladies to have made the trip. So glad WAP brought us together, I feel very blessed.

On another note, I totally get outraged when I hear people immediately blame raw milk for sickness without even considering that the other foods consumed in that time period could be the cause of the sickness! What a great response Ann Marie and thanks for setting the record straight.


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 10:20 AM

LOL — that’s funny, Kelsey! You’re right — you do what you gotta do!


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 10:23 AM

Hi, Jungleen! I’m sorry I couldn’t send you more details sooner! We should have called you! It was just so nuts with 3 kids…

When we were walking from the Capitol to the restaurant, we kept losing things and having to run back and find them. First Annie lost one of Cara’s Crocs — she had to run back a few blocks to find it. Then Kate dropped her sippy cup full of raw milk — one of those not inexpensive Born Free cups. I ran out of the restaurant and all the way back to the corner where Annie saw it last — there it was! Whew! They sure do keep you busy!


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 10:24 AM

BTW Jungleen Annie and I are talking about driving up for another road trip — this time for the WAPF conference. Steven (you’ll meet him at the birthday party) also wants to go. Let us know if you want to go too! I think it will be a total blast. Heck, we may have a caravan of folks going…


Tracey June 26, 2008 at 7:37 PM

I had tears in my eyes when I read this post. It really illustrates the power of the private citizen; which sometimes, doesn’t feel so powerful. Thank you for going and supporting what you believe in.


cheeseslave June 26, 2008 at 7:48 PM

Hi, Tracey! It was really emotional for us, too. Like I said, we were all crying when it passed. The private citizen does hold a lot of power, you’re right.

We don’t realize it because we can be so cut off and so disconnected. That’s one of the things I really appreciate about the Weston A. Price Foundation. It really brings people together and helps us support each other.


Carrie Thienes June 27, 2008 at 8:44 PM

Ann Marie,

I echo everyone else’s comments. I am SO thankful that this bill passed. MY newly pregnant sister lives in Santa Rosa and has been unable to get RM recently, and so this bill assures me that my sweet neice or nephew will be able to partake of one of nature’s perfect foods and benefit as much as my kiddos have!

Your Kate and my Jonathan are the about the same age and weigh the same! It’s all that good WAP food they eat!!!!


fc7c7c June 28, 2008 at 7:30 AM

Hooray! As a Los Angeles native, this is a big relief. I love Organic Pastures. (Any dairy with its own airstrip is definitely awesome.) Thanks for documenting this special event.


Lune June 29, 2008 at 10:49 AM

Well done, well done! Good for you, raw milk rules. Look at all those beaming beautiful happy faces. You drink the right stuff.


fervid_unicorn July 1, 2008 at 8:33 PM

You are AWESOME, lady! I’m just so proud of you because your intellect and dedication to wellness inspire me. You got to meet Mark, too! I’m jealous. I actually called all the contacts on the list to voice my support of raw milk. (My workplace pays for long distance for the company anyway. I never have to worry about making long distance calls from work. So they unknowingly supported raw milk too.) I’m in Indiana, but I felt I had to do something. I was with you in spirit and I’m so glad you could be there.


cheeseslave July 2, 2008 at 7:04 AM

Wow, you made phone calls from Indiana! That is awesome! Thank you! You know all the phone calls and letter *really* do help. Those congresspeople get inundated by our phone calls and letters, and then they know that the people really do care.


Melissa July 24, 2008 at 9:47 AM


I read what you posted as reasearch…What is your point?


cheeseslave July 24, 2008 at 12:20 PM

Hi, Melissa,

My point is that unless the only thing she consumed that weekend was raw milk, I don’t know how you can assume it was the milk that was contaminated.

Is it true that she ate a hamburger?

Did she eat other things that could have been contaminated?

Ann Marie


THIS PERSON July 29, 2008 at 5:26 PM

The picture of that baby with the milk dripping out of its mouths is disgusting!

What some of you see as a victory, others see as another opportunity for someone to become ill from harmful pathogens. !!


Alisue July 26, 2011 at 9:35 AM

What a totally ridiculous and rude comment!!! I am just amazed at the nerve of some people…..


cheeseslave July 29, 2008 at 5:32 PM

That’s my baby, and I don’t think she is disgusting.

Also that’s not milk. It’s ice cream and it happens to be pasteurized.


LeahS July 11, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Wow! I cried reading that post! WHat a victory! I had no idea. And so sweet about Mark and Kate :)


Alisue July 26, 2011 at 9:34 AM



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