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 a 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.
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.
I need to know how to make Coconut Kefir from live Milk Kefir grains. I already make homemade coconut milk from shredded coconut flakes. Therefore, I would like to use my milk kefir grains and add them to my coconut milk to produce coconut kefir. When I have tried this, I can\’t tell when the coconut kefir is ready. And, I have a problem with the fat of the coconut milk raising to the top and interfering with the kefir grains. Can you give me any suggestions?
Sarah Pope MGA
Here’s how to make coconut kefir with live grains. The fat always goes to the top whether you use raw dairy milk or coconut milk. You have to carefully separate the grains out at the end of the fermentation. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-coconut-milk-kefir/
I’m using goat milk mainly for Kefir production. Does it make any difference if I can use raw milk or not? Being in Canada, I do not have access to raw milk, but is it worth a fight if I only use it for Kefir?
It’s really up to you. Can you certainly use low temp pasteurized nonhomogenized milk to make kefir if you like.
Titus! I had the very same idea. My sisters husband owns cows and still are not allowed to give me their raw milk. Crazy if you ask me. If people are willing to take the risk, then it’s on them. As long as thee cows are being cleaned and udders are cleaned and clear, I don’t see the issue.
The “raw” camel milk is bull$#/^ it’s “lightly” pastureized as they say so themselves. Best way to get your raw milk is to find a farmer crazy enough to take the risk and sell it to you. All the cowshare programs i went through here had ended cuz the farmers end up going on burnouts. They’re overworked. I’ve also done the traveling to the states for raw milk for a while… until the burdon of getting interviewed everytime i came back to canada with my milk was too much. Now im just left empty handed and frustrated. Raw milk did me wonders and it’s a real shame im not reaping the benefits anymore from it.
Desert Farms used to carry a raw camel milk, but it’s been on backorder for quite some time due to harassment of the camel milk farmers by the FDA. I would suggest buying the camel milk kefir which is the lightly pasteurized milk cultured which at least has enzymes and probiotics again. Also, grassfed whole milk kefir from the healthfood store is an option. You might find that it is very close digestively to raw milk. That’s what I do when I travel or am out of raw milk for whatever reason.
Canadian update- March 23, 2018 B.C Herdshares still active with working with the B.C. government. Ontario Health shut down Michael’s farm and another without one sickness at any raw milk farms according to court cases judges. The judges stated that the legislation needs to be changed. This the past has been stated by a Guelph professor and the Food Inspectors and a former Premier. So the following Amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations should be sent to the Health Minister. Please request that the Minister of Health should add “(c)” to Division 8 – Dairy Products B.08.002.2 (2) Subsection (1) does not apply to “(c) any raw milk from a farm that is Certified by the Raw Milk Institute and (the farm) is allowed to supply milk to consumers by this exemption, in an unprocessed state; furthermore, the consumer must waive the protection of this regulation in writing.” If you wish to see the letters Health Canada sent me google- Federal Government Policy position Statements CONCERNING RAW MILK If you have had any medical benefits please send them to the Minister as well as this amendment to : ginette.petitpastaylor @ parl.gc.ca
If you live in Calgary or Edmonton, phone me (Richard Barrett) at 403-210-4854. I have had a tour on the farm (Our Cows) in B.C. and on Michael’s in Ontario. More interesting stories when I visited the Conventional Dairy farms in Alberta and Ontario. I have permission so far to learn from Alberta Milk site. I enjoy the ‘Ask A Dairy Farmer’. Also, I follow ‘Real Agriculture’ web. I put on their site that the Health Canada needs to have the Food and Drug Act Amended to allow farms to be Certified by the Raw Milk Institute, rawmilkinstitute.org
What’s the big deal here? Some people seem to have this need to joust at windmills? There is no clear benefit to raw milk, so why make it an issue?
Can one person (let’s call them the “farmer”) take care of a cow, (or cows) that are owned by mutiple people in the form of “shares”? The “farmer” would take care of the community shared cows and be paid monthly for their animal care-taking services. The “farmer” would then distribute the milk to all the co-owners of each cow.
This should work since the owners would be drinking the milk…
Hey Sarah, I enjoyed your article. It was very informative.
Im from minnesota and I’d like to ask a question. Could you possibly send me your email?
I grew up on a farm with a cow in my back yard. Now drinking milk from the store I have become lactose intolerant. Also when my dad drank raw milk he no longer had to take ulcer medication. I don’t understand why Canada is so behind making it legal. Might need to take a drive to NY to get some milk (easier then buying a cow)