How to Get Raw Milk in Canada (easily and legally)

by Sarah Raw Milk ActivismComments: 29

raw milk in Canada

The frustration of Canadians with their stuck-in-the-last-century government for its persistent refusal to legalize raw milk reached a fever pitch recently.

The reason is the surprise legalization of raw milk in West Virginia, the state previously known for the most draconian, anti-raw milk laws in the entire United States!

My email inbox was overflowing with Canadians seeking raw milk when this news broke. Clearly there is significant demand for raw milk in Canada!

Until now, I didn’t have a good answer for Canadians seeking this simplest and most nutritious of traditional foods for themselves and their families.

Now I do.  Here’s the lowdown on how to get raw milk in Canada easily and legally.

Canada Borders a Country Very Friendly to Raw Milk

According to National Geographic, 75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the border with the United States.

There are 13 states along the USA/Canadian border: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Raw milk is completely legal in 12 of these 13 states (and in 42 of 50 states total). The only state bordering Canada that outlaws the sale of raw milk is Montana (um, what are you waiting for Montana?).

What’s more, in 9 of these border states (Washington, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), raw milk can be purchased very easily either in a retail establishment or at the farm.

See the frequently updated, extremely helpful “Raw Milk Nation” map available on the website of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund for more information. By the way, this wonderful organization is having a crucially important membership drive through April 15, 2016 with lots of freebies and discounts. Please join if you aren’t a member already to help defend the rights of consumers to access healthy foods from the farms of their choosing!

Raw Milk in Canada – Legally!

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, a Canadian citizen can legally cross into the United States and purchase the raw dairy of his/her choosing and return across the border without harassment or duties (1).

Here are the exact words for dairy products allowed into Canada from the United States:

Dairy products (e.g.: cheese, milk, yogurt, butter):

up to 20 kilograms per person.

Please note that quantities in excess of $20.00 may be subject to high rates of duty. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for determining customs and duties for items coming into Canada.

Notice that in these guidelines, the dairy does not need to be pasteurized.  “Dairy products” is defined generally, which includes dairy products that are raw.

To confirm this interpretation to ensure I’m not passing on incorrect information, I’ve been conversing online with a dairy farmer and raw milk activist from British Columbia. She told me the following and gave me her permission to pass it along via this blog:

Sarah I have crossed the border into Washington, bought raw milk in the grocery store and came back into Canada with no problems at all. I even showed my receipt to the Canadian Customs Border guard and he said “thank you ladies, have a nice day.” I have to stop milking my cow for two months of the year so she can build up colostrum from her next calf so whenever I’m down in the Abbotsford area [near Vancouver, British Columbia] I will zip across the border to buy raw milk.

We are allowed $20 worth of dairy if we only go down for the day. It doesn’t matter what that dairy is, butter, raw milk, cheese, etc.

What’s all this mean? It means that if you live in Canada, you can legally cross into the United States, purchase raw dairy from the store or farm of your choosing, and cross back into Canada without incident so long as the raw dairy is for your personal consumption only. According to the language used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency above, purchases over $20 are also allowed (up to a maximum of 20 kg/44 lbs per person), but may be subject to high rates of duty. If you wish to avoid fees, take only $20 or less back home to be on the safe side.

Here’s a strategy to consider: Load up your car with peeps (the regs don’t specify that the “person” has to be an adult either) and drive across the border to load up as much raw milk and dairy as you are allowed legally. Raw dairy freezes very well so you can buy more than you will use right away to limit your trips. This article gives you freezing tips for milk and other raw dairy.

For privacy reasons, I won’t be posting the stores or farms that serve Canadians on a regular basis. The website Real Milk has a state-by-state list of farms, buying clubs, and other establishments that carry raw dairy to get you started on your search. If you live in Canada and are using this strategy already, feel free to post your sources in the comments section for others to benefit from.

Hopefully one day soon, the Canadian government will realize that citizens spending money regularly across the border to buy products proven to be safe that should already be legal in Canada is a drain on local economies. Keeping that money in Canada is a better approach for a smart politician who really gets the big picture.

Maybe the dynamic new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can have success rolling back these antiquated laws against raw milk to benefit the health and wellness of his constituency for decades to come!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (29)

  • amie

    I find it difficult to locate any raw milk while visiting Washington. I was just in Blaine and couldn’t find anything. A friend visited some farmers and they were very tight lipped about where they could go to buy some. It seems they are only allowed to sell a certain amount of raw milk, any more and they have to start pasteurizing it. That sounds so strange.

    April 22nd, 2016 7:12 pm Reply
  • Marnie Larocque

    Hi Sarah. I moderate our local GAPS group in Ottawa ON. I shared this post and a member expressed concern that Lyme disease is being passed trough raw milk of all kings, including breast milk. Is there any truth to this and where is this idea coming from?
    Thanks, Marnie

    April 6th, 2016 12:30 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Have not seen any credible research to this effect.

      April 6th, 2016 4:39 pm Reply
  • Matthew Rich

    ontario is all of canada now? there are provinces that sell raw milk…

    April 5th, 2016 11:08 pm Reply
  • mike hurcum

    you miss a political point the large dairy manufacturers hold the lock in Canada and they will never let go. The lock is called milk marketing boards. The only hey that will work in in American hands, It is in trade agreements with large tariffs on other farm products.

    March 20th, 2016 10:01 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      That’s what people thought in the USA too just 10-15 years ago … and now look at all the states (42) where you can get access to raw milk. Don’t give up … if you just go home with your tail between your legs the tyranny will never end!

      March 21st, 2016 7:26 am Reply
      • David Kalynowski

        Humans drank raw milk for thousands of years and flourished. Many millions of Canadians grew up drinking raw milk. Its Big business and corresponding government agencies that want control and job security for themselves. Farmers that sell raw milk have put a “Pet Food” label on the bottle/ container and you do what you want with it. :)

        April 4th, 2016 11:58 am Reply
        • Sarah

          Brilliant! I am glad to hear that the pet label is catching on in Canada!

          April 4th, 2016 12:58 pm Reply
  • Jay

    Thank you Sarah for your post! Yes, where there is a will there is a way, however I don’t plan on making any three hour trips to the States to get raw milk. To be honest, I have never even been to the US!

    Canada will not have raw milk for many years, quite sadly. Supply management and the power of the dairy lobby ensures change will never happen. The government imposed quotas are benefiting large-scale operations instead of family farms, as larger operations buy out smaller operations. Government intervention in consumer choice prevents raw milk from having any chance. We are a very socialist country, despite many opinions that counter such a claim.

    March 20th, 2016 5:00 pm Reply
  • Heather Johnston

    Hi Sarah,

    I have been following you for years. Thank you so very much for all that you do.

    I sporadically get raw milk here in Vancouver, BC and true enough we can easily get it across the border.

    A few months ago we were on a family holiday in California and drank tons of raw milk, so yummy. The day before we were due to come home we drank a crazy amount of it, trying to empty our hotel fridge :)

    Both of my boys, ages 4 & 8, got sick on the plane. Vomit-fest…Anyhow I started to question the milk. Our pediatrician once gave me a hard time about home made formula from the WAPF, due to the raw milk. He was intrigued at first so I sent him the WAPF site and he didn’t relax about it until I told him I used the liver based formula recipe. He told me he has seen kids in the ER with sickness from raw milk. So I started searching for answers on Google (never a good idea when already stressed) and I found this:

    I understand the benefits of raw milk. I used to buy cow shares here in Vancouver until that became imposible (politics)

    Please weigh in on this for me, particularly the bit about new strains of ecoli.

    Oh, and the vomit-fest was due to the flu.

    Thanks for your time,

    March 19th, 2016 5:38 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Any food has the potential to make you sick. Cantaloupes killed over 100 people a few years ago due to e coli. Kale has also been contaminated as well as many other foods.

      Raw milk can make you sick too, but compared with other foods is much safer for two reasons: it is loaded with probiotics which inoculates it from pathogen contamination. The good bacteria protect it from the bad so to speak. The second reason is raw milk does *not* go through the industrialized food system which is where the risk of contamination is greatest. This article details the truth about the safety of raw milk using data from the CDC:

      March 20th, 2016 9:47 am Reply
  • June

    Hi Sarah

    Could you please do the same research for Australia? It’s so hard to get raw dairy of any type here.

    Many thanks

    March 18th, 2016 11:18 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes, I know how tough it is down there. My husband is from Australia and just came back from a trip there visiting his parents.
      My suggestion is to get to know some farmers down there or a friend with some acreage who might board a cow or a goat (goats are easier because you can get mini-ones that don’t take up much room at all) for you and perhaps even milk it for you. It will definitely take some effort. Many years ago, when things were really tough here in FL, my husband and my backup plan was to get a 2 goats and keep them in our yard and milk them ourselves. We never had to do that, but you need a plan B and sometimes it might not be so convenient, but it might be easier than you think. The key is to be open to any possibility so that you don’t mentally block out a solution that might be right in front of you.

      March 19th, 2016 8:17 am Reply
  • Stacy

    Plus, that $20 duty-free limit, how does everyone agree at the border whether you are in compliance? Is that Canadian or American dollars? If Canadian, that really sucks, which I guess it is since these are Canadian regulations. And does each and every farmer who knowingly sells to Canadians provide currency conversion and an acceptable receipt? And each farmer charges a different price, so the farmer nearest the border may have to be by-passed (time, distance and money-wise) if the Canadians think their price is too high. How do you prove what your farmer in particular charges per gallon?

    March 18th, 2016 3:09 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      You can list all the reasons why it won’t work, or you can just make it work (while continuing with your activism in Canada to get local sources of course!). Obviously there are those that are making it work and quite well in fact.

      March 18th, 2016 3:15 pm Reply
      • Stacy

        Well, the devil is in the actual details…. It’s simply not workable for a lot of people, no matter how devoted they are to the cause. If you tried to ship your empty cooler from the US to Canada and back like you did, the international shipping costs would be double or triple what your fortune was years ago.

        March 18th, 2016 3:54 pm Reply
        • Sarah

          The point of my story is .. if there is a will, there’s a way, not that you should do the same thing and ship a cooler to the US (which I don’t think would be legal anyway if it was filled with raw dairy). :) People thought I was nuts doing what I did with the shipping etc many years ago, but I have 3 healthy children with no autoimmune issues or other health problems so in my view, it was worth the cost and the inconvenience.

          Get creative, figure out a way Stacy and get on with it! It might not be so convenient, but you Canadians do have a very easy and legal way to do it. I think people give up far too easily when a roadblock or two presents itself. You can ALWAYS figure it out if it is important enough to you, IMO. The shipping of my cooler loaded with frozen dairy cost well over $100 and that was just one way, much more than the cost of the dairy that was inside in the cooler. My bet is that I spent in one month’s shipping far more than all of the fees and exchange rate problems etc you listed and this was 15 years ago, so $100 was worth more then.

          March 19th, 2016 8:13 am Reply
          • Sarah

            One other thing … I don’t think folks realize how important it is for the average citizen to step out and figure out a way around a tyrannical situation as a hugely effective method, in and of itself, to change the law. What I mean is that if enough folks get so fed up with Canada’s fascist stance on raw milk to the point where neighbors are banding together and driving across the border to get it on a regular basis … and other crazy ideas like a huge trend of backyard goats for those who want raw milk for their families, then this becomes the tipping point for the government to relent. When the government sees that it is POINTLESS trying to squelch access to what people have RIGHT to … that is, healthy food for their families, this is what moves the needle.

            March 19th, 2016 8:39 am
  • Rhona

    Doesn’t help my family out because we live 8 hours from the US border (Montana ). I heard there was a dairy farmer in BC that had figured a legal way around Canada’s stupid anti-raw milk law by selling shares of cows so as owners we would be entitled to the raw milk etc. unfortunately we live near Edmonton AB and that farm was about a 10-12 hour drive away. I wonder if there are anymore dairy farmers in Canada willing to go this or if it is still a legal option. Government should give citizens back their right to freedom of choice.

    March 18th, 2016 3:01 pm Reply
  • Stacy

    I’m afraid the facts in this article are extremely over-simplified. Most Canadians live within 100 miles of an American border state that legally sells raw milk? Well, Montana creates a gigantic distance builder for anyone in Alberta and parts of British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The Great Lakes also create a huge problem for a whole lot of Ontario. For example. Sudbury, Ontario may only be about 60 miles from the north shore of Lake Huron, but to cross into the US, it’s 200 miles to the nearest crossing in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan, and 320 miles to Niagara Falls, New York, both routes involving tollways.

    Now if the nearest selling farm or store is another 2-3 hours into the US, this has turned into a dawn-til-dusk affair, with a vehicle full of people (realistically 4-7 tops if you have a van) who have to coordinate their time to make this trip together because they can’t take turns making the trip alone / loading up / and then delivering to each other when they get home. Plus, the more people that are in the car, the less carrying space there is for the actual milk.

    Now let’s say that milk is selling for $10-15 American per gallon. You add on the cost of gas money, toll money, unfavorable currency exchange rate, and sky-high tariffs if you dare try to bring back more than one piddly gallon per person (and I’m guessing only about five gallons per person by allowed weight if you’re actually willing to pay the tariffs), plus the officer enforcement inconsistency upon re-entry which may result in not being able to bring the milk back across the border at all in the end… Good Lord! I live in Minnesota and LOVE my raw milk, but this all sounds like Mission Impossible! For milk that has now ultimately cost you a whole day and perhaps $30 per gallon? I don’t consider that a “very easy” way to get milk no matter how good it is and how determined I am. Aside from this whole escapade, about the only way for a lot of Canadians to get raw milk is to get it illegally from their Canadian neighbors or illegally from international “smugglers” who make regular trips across the border to secret drop-sites and know a sympathetic border officer.

    March 18th, 2016 3:01 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      When raw milk was illegal in Florida when I first started drinking it 15 or so years ago, I used to ship a very large empty cooler that I owned over 1000 miles away and had it shipped back full of frozen raw grassfed dairy. It cost me a fortune and I did this once a month. It was also at a time when we didn’t have the budget to do it, but somehow we found a way. One has to choose how much inconvenience and cost is worth the effort. My view is that we only have one shot to raise our kids … it had better be a good one and healthy food is not an option if you want healthy children.

      March 18th, 2016 3:08 pm Reply
  • Lisa

    My family has consistently bought raw milk from Bromley’s Market in Sumas for the past ten years. We have never had a problem crossing the border with it. Sadly, our dollar is so low right now and the cost has increased so much in the last little while it’s about $15.00 a gallon, which is just not feasible on a regular basis. So good quality milk, which should be a staple for children is now a treat and we only buy it once or twice a month :( Would love for raw milk to finally be legal for purchase in Canada!

    March 18th, 2016 11:58 am Reply
  • MG

    Not to mention this is a really big country! I live 2 hr from one border crossing and about 3 hr from another, and that’s considered close. An easier way to get raw milk here is to have it labelled “for pet consumption”. That’s how the farm that my mother gets milk from does it (she lives 7 hrs from the nearest border–farm is another 3hrs north of there). Also, once you factor in the exchange rate….mind you, our milk isn’t subsidized s much as in the US, so we pay much more for all dairy.

    March 18th, 2016 11:34 am Reply
  • Kristie

    I am confused. I live in Wisconsin, and was under the impression that raw milk is illegal here? I have never seen it sold in any store here.

    March 18th, 2016 11:11 am Reply
  • Chris R.

    Montana’s trying! I put together the raw milk bill the last two sessions (MT legislature meets every two years!), but we have some “unique” situations other states don’t have and the powerful lobbyists get paid thousands of dollars to make stuff up. Just got a call yesterday from a large organization who would like to help with a lobbyist for us (they are looking into it) and legislators have been helping educate other legislators about raw milk, so if we get a new governor (one who won’t veto raw milk legislation like the current governor), we just may have a good chance of getting ‘er done next session!

    March 17th, 2016 10:44 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!!!! Thanks for sharing Chris.

      March 18th, 2016 8:48 am Reply
  • Marie

    Hey Sarah, thanks for this post. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy! I live in Canada and have had to cross the borders many times in 2015 due to health problems. We have had the opportunity to purchase raw milk in Vermont many times without being caught, always telling we had bought some food at the Canadian border. But once, and that was the last time we bought it, we were selected for a random inspection. As the raw milk in Vermont has to have an inscription on it saying it is raw, the people at the Canadian borders checked it out to see if we could bring it in. They called Agriculure Canada and found out it was illegal here, and they would not let us in with that.We only had 4 quarts maybe, not that much milk, and it was clearly only for our own comsumption. And they did not even allow us to just throw it in the garbage in Canada!! Seems like raw milk is a pretty dangerous item…We were sent back to the American borders with our milk! Needless to say, the guys at the American borders made jokes out of this and thought this was quite being overzealous. So we drank as much milk as we could, knowing it would be the last time and threw away the rest.
    It is actually so frustrating to not have access to raw milk. I don’t allow my kids to have regular pasteurized milk as they have had milk intolerances in the past (healed with Gaps and homeopathy). I only make yogurt and kefir with organic milk I can get here. Raw milk was such a treat for them, they loooved it! It was so creamy, yummy and lightly yellow, nothing like we had before! My son, who was 5 at the time, actually started crying in the car at the Canadian borders when we told him we wouldn’t try to buy any raw milk any more! He loved it so much, poor litte thing…. And I’m also quite angry that I can,t give this healthy food to them, even more as they are growing up.
    Your example in the article from the woman in B.C and my own experience show how much inconsistency there is at the borders too.

    March 17th, 2016 8:44 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      You need to call them out on what they are doing .. it is not in line with what Canadian Food Inspection Authority allows! Raw milk and raw dairy is not specifically disallowed. Clearly there are other areas of the border where raw dairy is permitted to cross. The best way to beat back an overzealous group of bureaucrats is to contact your legislator .. a phone call from them should do the trick to put them back in their place.

      Also, the next time you cross the border with raw dairy, have a copy of the regulations from the Canadian Food Inspection Authority with you … if you get any trouble, just show them in black and white what the rules are. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone in the car filming with their phone at the same time too … the prospect of a viral youtube video is a good deterrent for any out of line border official.

      March 17th, 2016 10:11 pm Reply

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