The jockeying for SB 201 will move to Hollywood territory this week. Actor Martin Sheen will team up with Sen. Dean Florez, the political force behind SB 201, at a press conference Tuesday at the Whole Foods store in Venice, designed to encourage the governor to sign the legislation.

Sen. Florez will talk about how SB 201 improves food safety, and Martin Sheen will discuss the importance of food choice and how raw milk has been part of his family’s good health for many years.

Im not normally a big fan of celebrity-based eventsour country is celebrity-crazed–but I guess if its for a cause I agree with, what the heck. And this is California, so why not use the natural resources you have?

According to Mark McAfee, Sheen family members were among his first customers when he started Organic Pastures in 2000. Mark is due to be at the press conference, as is Collette Cassidy of Claravale Farm, and possibly other stars.

What celebrity will the CDFA come up with as a counter? Maybe Darth Vader.


I was at a Friday evening Sabbath service a couple weeks ago, where the rabbi was discussing the scandal around the countrys largest kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa. I hadnt been following the situation all that closely, but I found the rabbis passionate sermon intriguinghe argued that for meat to be kosher under Jewish law, not only must the animals be healthy and slaughtered ritualistically, but the workers must be treated humanely. Because the company, AgriProcessor, was abusing its workers, the meat the company produced was not truly kosher.

I should point out that this rabbis view isnt unanimous by any means in the Jewish community. The matter of the Pottsville plant has been the subject of much debate, and groups of Orthodox Jews have inspected the plant and say it adheres to rules that make meat kosher.

Not long after the original expose about Postville, federal immigration authorities raided the placenot because of concerns about the meat, but about illegal workers. The government compounded the problem of abuse of the workers by deporting the breadwinners of many of the worker families, which the rabbi decried as simply making worse the original offense.

I bring the Pottsville situation up because of the discussion following my August 31 posting concerning the matter of a state discovery of medication at Organic Pastures dairy. A few people were understandably concerned, and Mark McAfee was just a little defensive in his explanation.

The bigger problem, of course, is that most of us have little idea about what happens in barns and slaughterhouses. Thats why there was so much shock and outrage over the videos of the downer cows captured by the Humane Society, that appeared on YouTube last spring.

Such ignorance makes discussions like the one between Mark and his questioners especially useful. The questions by consumers often sound both nave and accusatory to someone like Mark, who spends every day involved in the minutiae of running a dairy, and takes much for granted. It’s all testimony to how far removed many of us are from farm life.

I know I experience that sense of ignorance when I visit raw milk dairies. On a few occasions, Ive seen the dairies feed their cows a treat of oats when they first come in for milking. Its conditioning, to get them to cooperate more eagerly than they might. But does it violate the dairies pasture-fed commitment? Ive just assumed its one of those little informalities, among many, and I havent wanted to sound either accusatory or nave by asking.

I do think I know the answer to the question from Concerned Consumer, who wonders what happens to the cattle sold off by Organic Pastures after treatment with antibiotics or other drugs: they are sent back into the vast factory farm system, where no questions are asked, or even allowed, because honest answers would upset us too much. This is the system the regulators uphold, so why would they be concerned about such a scenario?

A New Hampshire farmer I often purchase beef from isnt certified organic, but is committed to organic principles. She says she occasionally uses antibiotics if an animals life is in danger, and keeps the animal on. She also says she raises her animals with love. I accept that, and find her farms meat dense and flavorful. I agree with the rabbi that there is a spiritual component to all this, and you wont find the spirit you are looking for on this countrys vast feedlots.