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Artisan Cheese Under Attack

The FDA has declared that no one should consume raw dairy for any reason. So, it’s not surprising that they have come down hard on raw milk artisan cheese makers like Estrella Family Creamery in Washington state. In the interview below, radio host (and local Weston A. Price chapter leader) Shonagh Home interviews Kelli Estrella to get the inside story of the FDA’s heavy handedness.

You absolutely MUST listen to this interview!

It is full of example after example of law-maker’s ignorance regarding heritage foods like artisan cheese. In one example that Kelli provides, the FDA argued with her about the wooden shelving she uses to age her hard cheeses. According to Kelli, these shelves are an integral part of the making of quality cheeses, much like the kind of wooden cask contributes to the bouquet and flavor of various aged wines. Yet to the FDA, these shelves were “unsanitary” despite being tested clean time after time for pathogens. They want to see stainless steel shelves, as in a cheese factory.

In another example, the FDA hounded her for her recipes. Kelli balked. She’s an artisan cheese maker. She doesn’t use recipes. “It’s not like I’m making chocolate chip cookies,” she said.

Even at the farmer’s markets, new rules state that cheeses have to be stored at under 40 degrees. If they’re not, they can shut you down. Nevermind that during the entire cheesemaking process, these cheeses are aged and stored at 55 degrees.

Click here to listen to the interview!

And, if you’d like to support the Estrella Family financially during this difficult time of lost sales, destroyed inventory, and legal fees, please consider donating any amount here. Even $5 helps!

(photo by FL4Y)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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11 Responses to Artisan Cheese Under Attack
  1. Deb Holter via Facebook
    February 9, 2011 | 12:54 pm

    raw dairy rocks. pasteurized milk tastes gross.

    • Florida
      March 5, 2013 | 5:06 am

      Nothing tastes better that just after you finish cleaning the dairy barn than to go into the tank room where the milk is stored at 34 F and getting a big dipper of milk just out of the cow

  2. Heather
    February 9, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Sadly I don’t see the persecution ending until the general public becomes better educated. Considering that the germiphobia by the general public is actually getting worse despite *doctors* saying back of the antibacterials I don’t see this happening. It seems that the failing science education Americans have been receiving for the last several decades is now costing us our health and our right to choose what to eat.

  3. Cara
    February 9, 2011 | 5:07 pm

    how do you feel about the new fda legislation testing dairy for drugs? i know the raw milk crackdown is, of course, part of the fda’s push. is there a happy medium? we need raw milk and raw cheese!

    • Florida
      March 5, 2013 | 5:26 am

      I totally agree with you on we need raw milk and cheese I was raised on a small dairy farm We had around a 120 head tiny by todays milk factory’s of 2 to 6,000 milked 3 times a day where they give drugs to the cows to keep them at top production and keep them alive In my grandfathers days cows were milked by hand and stored in a milk can in a spring or a hole in the ground to keep it cool until they could take it to town to sell and they did have problems back then with spoilage and people getting sick from it but that was back in the 40s 50s but with milk tanks and chillers that keep the milk around 34f I don’t see any problems as in the past There is nothing wrong with raw mild and it is better for you and taste so much better than store “milk”

  4. Mallory
    February 9, 2011 | 11:22 pm

    I live in Washington state and have never even heard of the Estrella family’s cheese–which is a tragedy as I LOVE good cheese. If they can’t sell their nourishing raw cheese commercially, can they do it privately? Or, can they “give” it to me as a friend and I just happen to make a donation?

  5. Mallory
    February 9, 2011 | 11:23 pm

    I live in Washington state and have never even heard of the Estrella family’s cheese–which is a tragedy as I LOVE good cheese. If they can’t sell their nourishing raw cheese commercially, can they do it privately? Or, can they “give” it to me as a friend and I just happen to make a donation?

  6. Anna
    February 10, 2011 | 12:12 am

    Mallory, I too, live in Washington, and I grew up just down the road from the Estrella’s-they make my favorite cheeses ever. I moved away for college, and lost contact with them. Hearing this is an aweful way to catch up- and I definitely will be doing more research on this.

    I was researching dairy farming last year, and you are NOT even allowed to give out gifts of raw milk, nor sell it privately if your license is taken away.

    The big kicker here is that taking all their cheese means they are wiped completely out for at least 60 days- that’s the minimum aging requirement for aging. Some of their cheeses were aged for six months or longer- and they took them all. All that effort, all that time, just wiped away.

  7. Tracee
    February 10, 2011 | 4:27 pm

    It’s a shame they want to make artisan business’ conform to industrial standards. Many of the items artisans make are impossible or even more prone to contamination on a massive scale production. I don’t understand why they are unable to comprehend that. I had been plagued by mysterious autoimmune problems my whole life (41 years of undiagnosed Celiacs and Crohn’s). In college I spent a semester in France and gorged myself on all of the fabulous cheese. I had a remission of my symptoms, which I thought was odd. I had a severe case of constipation after I got back, so bad I had to go to the doctor. He said it wasn’t uncommon for that to happen when people return from long trips abroad and he said “there must be something very constipating about the american diet”. Now I realize, duh, our sterile industrial diets are ruining our health. It’s a shame those wonderful cheeses are not a part of the american diet. I find myself looking at cheese making books on amazon. One day when I have time I would love to try it. But it still won’t be anything as good as some of those cheeses that have generations of experience behind them.

    • Erik
      February 11, 2011 | 10:31 am

      I can only see this as yet another example of the latest government’s “war”: the war on small producers. It’s nearly universal — not even just applied to food. You need a “license” from the powers to do anything at all, and without it they come down with all the force they can muster. The good news is that, in the case of food, I think they have found a war that will bankrupt them even faster than the “wars” on drugs, poverty, terror, etc. have. Most people are not willing to listen to some bureaucrat thousands of miles away telling them what they can and can’t eat, and will find ways around the regulations to such an extent that they eventually become impossible to enforce. It’s unfortunate that it looks like this is the approach that we’ll have to take with food, but at this point I can’t see any hope of the political powers relenting in their mad rush to shut down their lobbyists’ competition. I’m not going to stop drinking raw milk or eating handmade cheese just because some bureaucrat said so, and I hope that sentiment is widespread enough to matter.

  8. Beth
    February 11, 2011 | 5:59 pm

    Love the blog! I nominated it for the Stylish Blogger Award:http://mamainthequietcorner.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/stylish-blogger-award-from-sally-at-fairy-dust-teaching/
    Keep up the great work!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.