Some Like it Raw


“I sense and taste a different product,” says Vondruska of raw milk. Above, at his farm in Sqamish Valley.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 23, 2013

As a kid, Ferdinand Vondunska used to walk back home from the local farm with a bucket of raw milk.

He grew up in a town near Zurich in Switzerland, and townsfolk found nothing odd about drinking raw milk.

 It was almost part of a tradition, he says.

Time has passed but the tradition has stayed on his farm on Paradise Valley Road in Squamish.

Every day, Vondruska and some of his students at the C-Dar biodynamic farm drink raw milk obtained from the four cows on the farm.

The raw milk is filtered and stored for consumption.

Vondruska likens drinking raw milk to drinking water from a natural spring, or eating homemade cookies.

“I sense and taste a different product,” he said.

Vondruska recalled with delight the bowl of museli he just had with the raw milk that morning.

“It was great.”  

That is not how the government likes to see it.

Selling raw milk is illegal in Canada under the Food and Drugs Act.

Health Canada says bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria can make you seriously ill.

“These bacteria can cause serious health conditions, ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death,” the warning says.

The BC Ministry of Health calls raw milk “a risk to public safety.”

Those warnings have little meaning for Vondruska, who says he has never fallen ill because of drinking raw milk.

If anything, it makes him feel healthy and energised.

“I try to consumer as naturally as possible, and this milk feels more alive and natural,” he says.

Many raw milk advocates believe raw milk is nutrient rich and contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes that can be killed by pasteurization.

Taste and texture have been cited as other reasons for the popularity of the raw milk.

There hasn’t been conclusive scientific research on the benefits of drinking raw milk, and some believe the risk can outweigh any perceived benefits.

David Barbano, a director of the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center in the US, was quoted in the NYT saying even though he grew up drinking raw milk, its benefits haven’t been proven by rigorous scientific tests.

“Science has never found any evidence that it is more beneficial than pasteurized milk,” he told the NYT.

That observation does nothing to hold back people like Michael Schmidt, an Ontario farmer who was found guilty of selling and distributing raw milk.

In 2011, the Ontario Court of Law also ruled that drinking raw milk is not a Charter protected right.

Such thinking has led to an underground market for raw milk, says Ferdinand Vondruska.

Making it legal would make regular inspections easier, and enable people to make their own choice.

Vondruska has already made his choice. He will keep drinking raw milk, he says.

“It feels like I’m drinking something that actually came from the cow,” he says.