Question: Can I sell raw (unpasteurized) milk in Texas?
Answer: I knew a question about raw milk would come across my desk one day, much to the enjoyment of my colleague and friend from Virginia Tech, Jesse Richardson, who is always emailing me about raw milk disputes around the country. The answer to this question for folks in Texas is yes and no.
Raw milk may be sold in Texas direction from the “point of production” directly to the consumer so long as the seller has obtained the required Retail Milk Permit. Other sales of raw milk in the state are prohibited. Let’s look at each of these requirements.
- Point of Production: The point of production is the location where the milk was produced. Usually, this will be the farm where the cows are kept and milked. Thus, while raw milk could be sold at the farm, it cannot be sold at a farmers market in town. In the 2013 legislative session, a bill was proposed that would have allowed sales at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and county fairs, but that bill died in committee.
- Directly to the Consumer: This requirement essentially prohibits any middle man from being involved. For example, a producer cannot sell raw milk to a store for it to then be purchased by the consumer.
- Retail Milk Permit: Texas law is clear that a Retail Milk Permit is required in order to sell raw milk. See 25 Texas Administrative Code 217.24 (“A person must have a permit to sell raw milk at retail.”). In order to get a permit, a person must comply with all regulations related to raw milk found in the Texas Agriculture Code Chapter 25. In order to obtain a permit, a producer must contact the Department of State Health Services to complete an application and pay certain permitting and license fees. See 25 Texas Agriculture Code 217.91.
Producers who violate these rules are subject to fines. For example, one Texas dairy near San Antonio allowed customers to place orders online and then delivered the raw milk to designated pick up locations in the city. When the Department of Health Services found out, the farm was assessed a $5,000 fine and forced to dump 700 gallons of raw milk. A similar situation occurred near Ft. Worth. A nearby farm is facing allegations of illegally selling raw milk at locations including food co-ops in Ft. Worth. The farmer is currently on trial and faces the possibility of $3,000 in fines if found guilty of charges of distributing unfit food and operating an illegal food establishment.