Based on our “back to the future” protocol revision approved by the University of California San Francisco Medical School, , we began to contact dairies, creameries, farm organizations, and agriculture-related educational institutions.
We assumed that obtaining raw milk would be relatively easy given that the study’s investigators lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area which included the global birth of the organic food movement in Marin and Sonoma Counties.
We were wrong.
At least 43 phone calls and emails to dairies, creameries, went un-returned. No response whatsoever.
When that produced no results, we resorted to personal visits and “milk driving” around Sonoma and Marin County looking for any dairy or cheesemaker who might be willing to help direct us to a source of milk.
Among those many unrequited attempts were:
- Straus Family Creamery
- Petaluma Creamery
- Spring Hill Cheese
- Hilmar Cheese
- Laura Chenel
- Cowgirl Creamery
- Achadinha Cheese Company
- Nicasio Cheese
- St. Benoit Creamery
- Bellwether Farms
- Gambonini Family Ranch
- Dairy Science Program, Department of Animal Science at the University of California Davis (including the bovine herd manager
- Animal science department at Santa Rosa Junior College
- Sonoma County Farm Bureau
- Cooperative Extension offices in Sonoma and Marin Counties
Organic dairy pioneer no help
Typical was the frustration with one of the pioneers of organic dairy.
In late 2017, study Co-Principal Investigator Lewis Perdue made a visit to Straus Family Creamery which says it is the first certified organic creamery west of the Mississippi River. The logic in starting with them was that — with their commitment to sustainability — they would be able to talk about plastic contamination as it applied to them and their organic dairy customers.
On that occasion, no one was there to talk with Perdue, but he was given the card for Sustainability Director, Joseph Button. Perdue was told he would be in on December 1, but he was not there. Perdue pestered him with emails on Dec. 2, 8 and 2.
On December 21, Perdue finally received his reply: “I do not have the bandwidth at this time nor in the near future to answer these questions with the attention to detail they would require.”
In a quick conversation that Perdue had with Albert Straus [creamery founder] Straus mentioned that the dairies dealt with this issue around 10 years ago when they all switched over to low or zero phthalate/BPA tubing.
Straus’s recollection was that just about all the dairies that he is aware of use the same tubing and he suggested that Perdue get in touch with the main manufacturer to obtain data as to when dairies began purchasing the better plastic tubing.
Further attempts to get more details including the specific tubing type or manufacturer zero phthalate/BPA tubing of the zero phthalate/BPA tubing were fruitless. Perdue did email and call the manufacturer of Tygon – which makes zero phthalate/BPA tubing for dairy — but received no response.
Study investigators were also unsuccessful in getting details on whether Straus Family Creamery had an inspection or compliance program to ensure minimum contamination from dairies.
The closest study investigators got to a source of milk came from d countywide randon drive where a hand-lettered roadside signs caught Perdue’s eye near Sebastapol in western Sonoma County: Bohemian Creamery
Perdue stopped into their tasting room to taste their delicious hand-made cheese server up by one of their cheesemakers. Perdue struck up a conversation, explained that he was looking for organic raw milk.
How researchers almost bought a cow
In short order, Perdue wase referred to a small artisan operation even deeper into the West County which is where the study investigators almost bought a cow — Actually almost bought a fractional limited partnership share of a five-cow herd.
That proved to be expensive, impractical, and would pose insurmountable problems for replication. So that path was abandoned, and investigators decided that both reality and replicability needed to rely on widely available product.