Richard Hebron, 41, was driving along an anonymous stretch of highway near Ann Arbor, Mich., last October when state cops pulled him over, ordered him to put his hands on the hood of his mud-splattered truck and seized its contents: 453 gal. of milk.
Yes, milk. Raw, unpasteurized milk. To supply a small but growing market among health-conscious city and suburban dwellers for milk taken straight from the udder, Hebron was dealing the stuff on behalf of a farming cooperative he runs in southwestern Michigan. An undercover agricultural investigator had infiltrated the co-op as part of a sting operation that resulted in the seizure of $7,000 worth of fresh-food items, including 35 lbs. of raw butter, 29 qt. of cream and all those gallons of the suspicious white liquid. Although Hebron's home office was searched and his computer seized, no charges have been filed. "When they tested the milk, they couldn't find any problems with it," says Hebron. "It seems like they're just looking for some way to shut us down."
Why no love for raw milk? The FDA banned transportation of raw milk between states, and each state has different laws governing the sale of raw milk for human consumption—you can buy it in California stores, drive up to a farm in Illinois, but other states won't let you have it at all. Why do fans of raw milk go to all the trouble? They say that "along with the bad pathogens, heat-treating milk destroys beneficial bacteria, proteins and enzymes that aid in digestion. Some people with a history of digestive-tract problems, such as Crohn's disease, swear by the curative powers of unpasteurized milk. Others praise its nutritional value and its ability to strengthen the immune system."
Time's coverage comes somewhat late, as USA Today, The Washington Post and even Business Week all filed stories on the raw milk crackdown last year. If you're interested in trying raw milk, USA Today made a chart of raw milk availability and legality per state and realmilk.com has directories of raw milk providers by state and by country.