We are registered with the Ministry of Primary Industries (NZ) to supply raw milk directly to the consumer under the MPI RSC (Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers) document. Part of the registration is an annual audit from an independent verifier that confirms we have complied with the RSC.
Here are some regulations that we follow to ensure our milk is safe to consume WITHOUT having to pasteurize it.
Separate Herd. Our raw milk herd is a completely separate herd to any others we have on the farm. The milk we supply to you as raw milk is from our official 'Raw Milk Herd'. We have to keep these girls separate as they have all been individually tested for various pathogens and had a veterinarian sign off to say she is healthy. We don't just supply 'the first 20 cows that row themselves up in the main herd'. Our 'main herd' supply is sent to a factory and is always milked AFTER the raw milk herd - never before. This ensures the dairy is always clean to help eliminate any risk of bacteria ending up in your milk.
Teat Preparation. Before milking our raw milk herd each morning we follow a strict teat prep regime. Every individual teat is washed, the foremilk stripped and visually inspected for quailty, teats sanitized and then dried with a single use paper towel. Once that is complete on every cow in our raw milk herd we can milk them.
Routine Milk Testing. Every day before the shop opens we test our milk for the Somatic Cell Count reading. MPI requires it to be less than 160,000 parts per milliliter, although we have a company goal of less than 100,000 ppm. Currently (as of today) over the past month our average daily SCC has been 15,000 ppm. This is ridiculously low and we are super proud of it!! Every 10 days we also send a milk sample away to Eurofins Labs and MilkTest NZ to test our milk for various pathogens including Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, E Coli, the Aerobic Plate Count (how clean our dairy shed plant is), and more. If some of these pathogens were to be present we would instantly re-call our milk for that period. We have always had clean results and have no intentions of letting that change!
Rigorous Shed Cleaning. A normal cowshed follows a recommended cleaning program of a cold acid wash after each milking and 2 alkali washes per week. We want to make sure our shed is always crystal clean so instead, we do a hot acid wash after every morning milking (the next milk to go through the dairy is sent to a factory rather than The Shop) and then after the afternoon milking EVERY day we do a full hot (82’C)alkali wash. This means that every time we milk the raw milk herd (the following morning) the shed has had a full clean and there is zero risk of having any nasties left in the milk lines.
Another regulation is the MPI Health Notice. We don’t agree with this notice at all for our milk, although for some producers (not following any cleaning or testing regimes) it would be very true. This is what the Health Notice says: “Raw milk may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause serious illness. To reduce the risk of illness, raw milk should be heated to at least 70 0C for one minute. This is critical for infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.” Check out our blog article about the composition of Raw Milk here and why heat treating it completely destroys your milk. There are some farms out there that are not following good hygiene practices and in those cases this health notice would apply. For us (and many other raw milk farms) it is simply not true. Raw milk is full of good enzymes, vitamins, minerals and can even produce probiotics, but if you heat treat the milk, all of these characteristics are either totally or partially destroyed and actually make it harder for your body to digest.
New Zealand sits about the middle of the raw milk ‘discussion’. Some countries don’t allow the sale of raw milk at all, while others are totally on board and endorse the sale of it. You see a bunch of articles about how “Raw Milk Hospitalises…..” But what you don’t always see in these articles is the status of the farm in regards to the regulations of that country. Most cases of raw milk getting people sick is either a) not linked to raw milk at all or b) raw milk produced from a farm that is not following hygienic practices or doing any testing of their milk. It’s so important to make sure you are buying raw milk from a farm that follows good hygiene practices and the country of sale has good systems in place to keep the farm accountable. New Zealand has a good document that governs how registered raw milk producers must produce their milk. Not every raw milk producer in New Zealand is registered with MPI though, and may not be cleaning the teats before milking or testing the milk regularly.
We have written this post for anyone wanting to know more about our milk here at Alexander Organics in Cambridge, NZ. If you are outside of the Waikato and buying raw milk from someone else, the best way to be sure of how clean your milk is - talk to your raw milk farmer!