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Temporary Halt to Raw Milk Sales

5/29/13  11:52 AM

Hello Family Cow Friends,

This is a note to tell you that we are halting sales of our raw milk while we do further testing. The PA Department of Ag called me yesterday reporting that they isolated campylobacter bacteria in a sample of raw milk that was bottled at our farm almost three weeks ago. For the next several days, both we and the state are extensively testing our current milk to assure its safety before we resume sales.

The state’s report is puzzling to our family. We are not sure what to make of it. As you know, we have our own on-farm laboratory where we pre-test every single lot of raw milk before we release it for sale to you. I guess that’s why we are surprised by the state report. We already know how clean the milk was that the state is questioning.  The Coliform Count (CC) of the milk was 5 times lower/ml than state requirements for raw sales and the Standard Plate Count (SPC) was over 13 times lower/ml than the state regulations require. This was some very clean milk, folks! This is even cleaner than pasteurization standards.  And these low numbers are not unusual for our milk.  These are the kinds of low numbers that allows our raw milk to sometimes stay fresh for up to three weeks, as some of you report it does. 

But regardless of our own lab test results and our questions, we have halted raw milk sales while we send our current milk off to a 3rd party state certified pathogen lab for testing. As always, we take food safety for your family seriously. We feed our family these foods too so we obviously take very personal interest! 

In light of the state’s findings, we must recommend that you discard any Family Cow raw milk that you still have. Keep track of what you had to discard and make a note on your next order.  We’ll give you a credit.  Please note: this is only for the raw cows milk. Our other foods, meats, cheeses, yogurts, etc. are not a part of this recall.

Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience. We are very sorry. I know many of you will be upset, since you, like us, depend on this milk. We as a family and our farm employees will continue to drink the milk as always. But I think you understand why we need to halt public sales for now. We are working closely with the PDA and PDH and we expect to resume sales soon.  All of our other foods sales including cheeses, butter, cream, meats, raw goats milk etc will continue as normal.

Please send all questions or comments to: Because of the volume of questions that we will receive, please do not expect a quick personal answer. We will read all questions and comments and try to answer all of them in an email newsletter to keep you updated.

All drop points will run as normal; we just will not have raw cows milk available. If you wish to cancel a drop point order since we will not be bringing milk, we understand. For this communication please only use If you had ordered only cows milk, we will automatically cancel your order.

In these situations it is always a hard call to decide what is expedient and cautious and what is reactionary. We have tried to make the best decision. I’m sure some of you will approve but some of you may not. The least we ask of you is to feel our love and concern and to respect our decision in this.

The Shank Family

Please pray with us that no one will be made ill and that we can get this resolved quickly. Thank you!

We love all of you. We know you care.  We will keep you updated.

Love ~ Your Farmer Edwin Shank and Family



Consumers or Friends

5/31/13 11:44 PM

Hi Family Cow Friends!
Just a note on why we call you friends or families rather than “consumers” or even “customers.”  It is just a part of our ideology here at the farm, I guess. We think “consumers” is such an industrial, impersonal term. Consumers…like as if you all are consuming machines or something…eating machines bent on doing nothing but consuming whatever we make. We think that when we call you families, friends and folks it is more respectful to you and serves to remind and refocus us on the people and relationship element of the food we grow. It is the same reason why we have a ‘food list’ rather than a ‘product list’. And we do not ‘produce’ milk, chicken or eggs and beef on our ‘operation’. Rather, we grow milk, chicken and eggs and beef on our farm. Subtle differences to be sure. But it’s a small statement of resolve from us to keep from sliding into the impersonal trap of industrial jargon and attitude.
So…again…Family Cow Friends, Families and Folks!  :)  Thanks so much for all your emails, phone calls and prayers in the last few days. Every email was read and appreciated tremendously. We feel very humbled and not completely worthy of such an outpouring of love and support. What we do is not so super outstanding. It’s really a very simple plan. We provide food for you, our friends, exactly like we feed to our own children. When we play the notes, follow the rhythm and harmonize the parts as directed by the Master, the symphony of food is remarkably beautiful (ever fry one of our pastured eggs alongside a supermarket organic egg?) but it is God’s glory and not ours. Please keep that fact in mind in all your praise to us. It’s all we ask.
Some of you were asking for an update on the raw milk and had a few other questions, so I listed out a few here.
What is the latest news?
The really thankful, Praise-the-Lord news is that this has involved a relatively low number of people. As far as we know, the number of cases has not grown past the original five. Most of those were in the first week of May and in talking to those families, many of them were not at all sure that it was the milk. But the health department did report and count them because they do drink our milk. Please understand that I am not at all attempting to minimize or trivialize any who were ill. It is just that considering there are an estimated 3500 people per month drinking milk from The Family Cow, if there were serious food safety issues, the illnesses count would be much higher. Also something we thank God for: the illnesses have been relatively mild. Most recovered without antibiotics, though a few did use them to kick the diarrhea completely.  Typically, campylobacteriosis clears up on its own, but it’s still something to thank God for!
When will the raw milk be back?
At this point we really do not know. It all depends on the test results. We have five samples at our third party lab right now (QC Laboratory) being tested and there are two more being tested by the State. The timing of all this hinges on the results of the two samples the State is in charge of. If they both come back pathogen free, which I expect they will, we will only need an updated inspection of our bottling facility and The Family Cow raw milk will be back in the store and drop points again. If all goes perfect, this might be as early as Thursday next week. Don’t worry; we will let you know!
How common is campylobacter?
The CDC estimates 2.4 million cases of campylobacteriosis in USA every year. Here is what they have to say:
“Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. The vast majority of cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as part of recognized outbreaks. Active surveillance through FoodNet indicates that about 13 cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 2.4 million persons every year, or 0.8% of the population.”
So, if we do the math we learn:
  • The estimated annual cases of campylobacteriosis in USA are: 2,400,000
  • If we divide that by 50 states, it puts the annual cases per state at: 48,000
  • When we divide that by 52, we find that the weekly number of cases per state is: 923
  • So the estimated number of PA residents ill with campylobacter in May was: 3600

What is the most common source of campylobacter?
(Also excerpted from CDC)  “In 2011, Campylobacter was found on 47% of raw chicken samples bought in grocery stores and tested through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)… It only takes a very few Campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) to make a person sick. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can have enough Campylobacter in it to infect a person! One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can get onto the other foods.”
What is our best defense against campylobacter or other bacteria?
This is the real biggy, I know, and I’m sure I don’t have enough time to cover it all here. But I do want to emphatically make this statement. To try to further sterilize your environment or food supply is NOT the answer!
There is currently more ground breaking research being conducted right now on this area of science and health than probably any other area I know. We live in exciting times! The 1950’s to 2000 was the kill-all-bacteria age and some are still stuck in it. But to those who are awake and learning, today is the age of the humble acknowledgement that bacteria are an integral part of us and crucial to the health and well being of us and our children.
But, guess what? Thanks to Michael Pollan, I don’t need to write out my thoughts to you on immunity.  I learned just Wednesday that Pollan has a powerful NY Times essay, Some of my Best Friends are Germs. I was totally blown away! This guy is speaking my language! I agreed with almost everything he was saying. I have been following the American Gut Project and many of the other studies that Pollan references and I thought that I was probably still on the lunatic fridge. You know the kind…the crazy kefir-drinking, kombucha-brewing, organic-raw-milk-farmer type. I was totally thrilled to know that a fairly mainstream, influential fellow like Pollan was also on board… fermenting kimchi, making his own raw milk cheese and nurturing his gut microflora and all. Wow!   Here is a small excerpt where Pollan writes about bacterial invasion resistance. Isn’t that what we all want?
“Some scientists in the field borrow the term “ecosystem services” from ecology to catalog all the things that the microbial community does for us as its host or habitat, and the services rendered are remarkably varied and impressive. “Invasion resistance” is one. Our resident microbes work to keep pathogens from gaining a toehold by occupying potential niches or otherwise rendering the environment inhospitable to foreigners. The robustness of an individual’s gut community might explain why some people fall victim to food poisoning while others can blithely eat the same meal with no ill effects.”
I’m deeply indebted to Michael Pollan for this essay. He has concisely condensed so much of what I believe and what our family has learned from experience and that try to communicate to you. And Michael says it so much more professionally than what I ever could have. Read all of it moms… and dads too!  Print it out so you can read it better. It’s good stuff. The health of you family may depend on it.  Read full article.
This is what raw milk, raw kefir and raw cheese and raw kombucha tea are all about folks… building immunity, building strength, nurturing our inner community of micoflora and health!
Think about it!
Your farmer ~ Edwin and Family

Tests Prove Family Cow Raw Milk Pathogen Free!

6/3/2013, 4:45 PM

Hey, Good News Family Cow Families!
All official State-accepted pathogen tests results from the Family Cow raw milk have come back 100% pathogen free! Two samples were sent to a PA State-approved 3rd party lab and tested free of the following four pathogens:
  • Campylobacter jejune
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • E.coli O157:H7
Also exciting for us: we received test results for the 6/12 cap date raw milk that was in our store refrigerators when the State asked us to halt sales last Tuesday. This test was also run at a 3rd party lab and, like we expected, it was also confirmed to be 100% pathogen free.
So it is official now…The Family Cow raw milk is cleared to go!…all we need yet is an updated inspection of our milking and bottling facilities by the PDA. I just spoke with our raw milk inspector a bit ago. He said he will come out today, or maybe at the latest tomorrow, to re-inspect. So, if all continues to go as planned, we should be able to bottle fresh milk on Tuesday or Wednesday morning and drop points will be as normal this week!
So that is the latest, folks… straight from The Family Cow!
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-:¦:-••..-:¦:-GOD Bless You All for your Prayers and Love! -:¦:-..••-:¦:-
Edwin and Dawn Shank and Family -:¦:-..••-:¦:-

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