Lincoln County officials join raw milk debate

By Steve Kohlmann
Wausau Daily Herald
April 7,2011

Jeff Utech’s organic goat farm produces gallon upon gallon of milk for pasteurization each day.

But Utech and his wife, Janet, don’t drink that stuff. Instead the family drinks milk almost directly from the goats’ udders.

“We used to put our coffee cup under the goat,” Janet Utech said Tuesday morning. Now the couple simply fills a canister with the raw milk to be used for coffee, Jeff Utech said.

Fans of raw milk like it because it contains live enzymes believed to help the body.

The Utechs, residents of the town of Maine, operate a 160-acre goat farm and they want the state Legislature to legalize the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin so that others can consume unprocessed milk, too. Currently, Wisconsin law bans the sale of unprocessed or raw milk.

“Everyone should have the right to buy whatever food they think they need for their family,” Jeff Utech said as he milked his goats Tuesday. “In (the pasteurization) process, they spin the milk so fast that it presses the molecules and it’s not good for the body. It’s harder to digest.”

Raw milk has been under debate in Wisconsin for the past two years between those who believe the unpasteurized substance has benefits for humans and those in the medical industry who warn that harmful bacteria can cause illness.

Now the debate is being re-introduced in the state Senate and officials in Lincoln County are taking part in the discussion.

Shelley Hersil, director of the Lincoln County Health Department, has proposed that the Lincoln County Board’s Board of Health send a letter to state lawmakers opposing the measure.

Raw milk contains pathogens that can cause people to become ill, Hersil said.

“We do not approve of this legislation because it can cause disease and food-borne illness in the county,” Hersil said during debate on the issue at a Lincoln County Board’s Board of Health Committee meeting last month.

But committee member Bill Zeitz of Merrill said he is in support of the proposal. Zeitz keeps goats on his property and consumes raw milk, he said.

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