- West Virginia has passed a new law allowing shared animal ownership, also known as a herd sharing agreement, as a legal way for residents to consume raw milk. All other raw milk sales are still illegal in the state.
- Last year, the governor vetoed a similar bill citing health risks, and local health officials were disappointed that he changed his mind this year.
- In a notable twist of events, lawmakers who drank raw milk after passing the bill became sick, though they say it was from other colleagues being ill rather than from the raw milk itself. The state Department of Health and Human Resources is investigating.
The "responsible" party in the shared animal ownership agreement is unable to distribute, sell, or resell raw milk on the market, so raw milk won't be appearing on grocery store shelves in West Virginia. The agreement enables people to still make the choice to drink raw milk, despite the noted health risks. But for the agreement, there are several provisions, including providing specific information to the Commissioner of Agriculture and an agreement that the consumer and his or her doctor will report any illnesses.
These agreements could become more commonplace for state governments to permit citizens to drink raw milk. But by not allowing direct sales in grocery stores by the producers in the agreements, legislators still appease public health advocates who are concerned about safety.
Consumer demand for raw milk continues to grow despite the health risks. However, growth of the segment is hindered by the U.S. Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which states that only pasteurized milk can cross state lines. State governments thereby must figure out laws and methods for both preventing and/or enabling consumers to buy or consume raw milk within the state.