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Why is raw milk so expensive?

Why is raw milk so expensive?

Raw milk can be relatively expensive. Subsidized and conventionally processed fluid milk is a completely separate industry, which is able to sell milk for artificially low prices. In some cases, raw milk is actually cheaper than organic pasteurized milk which comes from smaller-scale farms.

Since raw milk production is not standardized, the cost of producing and distributing raw milk, squared with local demand, varies widely across the world. Different farmers have different input costs, some related to chosen practices and some related to the cost of accessing those inputs in their region. Demand is not evenly distributed, which also contributes to greater or lesser pricing to the consumer.

Dairy subsidies and the lack thereof

US federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2023 totaled $522.7 billion dollars. This money covers production, insurance, and disaster programs. We spend a lot on food, collectively, to keep food flowing out of the farmlands and onto our plates. Much of this money ends up in corporate hands, including food processors. From the USDA’s fact sheet covering the Milk Price Support Program:

The MPSP has never paid farmers directly, but purchases dairy products from processors and vendors to allow farmers to be paid the mandated support price for their milk.

The 2002 farm bill mandated a support price of $9.90/cwt or hundredweight, the effective minimum wage for conventional dairy farmers, which is just under 12 gallons of milk.

Since raw milk farmers are not a part of the farm-to-processor-to-retailer food system, raw milk prices are not affected by this food spending program which actively lowers the price of conventional pasteurized milk to the consumer. Raw milk farmers are on their own, but are also free to set their own prices, which results in a vast range of pricing across markets.

Raw milk sticker shock

An image of Fresno-based Raw Farm‘s raw cow milk (above) was the focus of social media discourse making the rounds on Reddit and Twitter. The gallon jug of milk was on sale at a grocery store shelf, priced at $26.99 per gallon.

There were some jokes about hyperinflation, some outrage, some mockery. Turns out, this photo was taken in Beverly Hills – a place most affected by inflation – so the price isn’t at all surprising. The same gallon of raw milk goes for $17.99 per gallon in Los Angeles and ~$20 per gallon in San Diego.

I reposted the gallon of milk on Instagram with the following caption and will parse prices out from the comment section below.

Noticed this image circulating

California is cheap for what you get, but yeah… I’ve also seen raw milk go for 35/gal, after herdshare buy-in costs, I believe this was a small herdshare in Missouri. Inland WA, ranges from 7-14 per gallon at the grocery store. On the coast, it’s ~18/gal but I’ve also seen it heading to the food bank. YMMV

Update: this is pricing in Beverly Hills

Instagram comments

radfiredad replied: Jesus fucking Christ. (comment hidden by Instagram)

mikemuls: It’s $12/gal in CT. And I thought we had it bad here 😂

aoakford13: $10 here in CT for half gallon. Cant get full gallon anywhere here.

lafemmevickita: $10/gallon in utah!

wildwoodkitchenco: $27/gallon here in North Carolina

lotusdewdrops: Yep, seen it for this price here in NC.

keeping.up.katy to lotusdewdrops: Where? Im in NC paying $11/gal

kingdomhealthwellness to lotusdewdrops: Where? No way for a whole gallon of raw cows milk. A gallon is typically $15/16.

the_odd_life_of_rylee: I bought some from Sprouts in CA today, it’s $17.99 for a gallon from this brand

maidennewyorkla: Omg. I’m in LA and get it for $18

allisonleighkarney: It’s $18.79 in LA valley. Got 3 kids and getting hard to keep up. I’m so sad 😭

gldnstatefreedom: I buy it for 20$ a gallon at sprouts here in San Diego 🥲 but it’s 100% worth it.

book_maiden4: It’s $18 a gallon in ca where I’m at, I was purchasing it for my son who has allergies but, I’m a family of 6 and low income so hard to keep up in this economy to have good health …..we live raw milk and hope to be able to afford it soon

jacklindanceparty: $17.99 in Orange County Ca and I gladly buy it every week.

michaellackey12: Our farm @triplelfarmsga sells for $8 a gallon in Northeast Georgia. Most farms in our area sell for more, but our goal has always been to have a quality product that people can still afford.

kaytastekin: Depends where I go I’ve paid as less as $6 a few years ago in Maine and now it’s anywhere from $9-$15.

angelfyre85: In Snohomish County, western Wa, raw cow milk is $16 to $20 gallon. Raw goat milk is about $24 to $30 a gallon.

iwasveganonce: I think about $15 per gal around Snohomish county Wa. But so worth it

sorvete_constantinopolitano: How much is a gal? In Brazil I pay like 1USD per liter lol.

planeta.melody: I pay $9aud for 2ltr of organic raw milk

h_richardson97: $8 in mass. I thought we had it bad😂

reallivehuman207: I pay 7.50 a gallon for my regenerative farmed no till organic raw milk from a farm the next town over that I buy in an Amish market I thought I was getting screwed I would cut out dairy completely if I saw this

the_northern_woodsman: 7 a gal in NH

whollygraciebird: Crazy!!!!! Its $6/gallon here in Michigan from the Amish

mozzafiato11 to whollygraciebird: same in PA!

earthyyone: Yeah we pay $10 half a gallon here in the rockies

thejawagner: $10 per gallon here in Southwest Ohio. Even in northern Virginia I wasn’t paying more than $16 per gallon.

hssmichaels: Texas: We pay $14 per gallon + delivery fee of $3 so the total per gallon is $17.

make_up_by_luba: $16 in south east Texas directly from the farm or my beef guy delivers for me when he comes $7 a gallon. I get a lot and freeze it

camillegisby: It’s $6 a gallon from the farm i get it from in Texas

benagardner: $10 in my part of Texas.

beaufordsbbq: So fortunate in Florida! Get it from my local grocery store @detwilersmarket and it’s only $9.99/gallon!

healthy_tradesman: 10$ a gal raw in Pensacola FL

beatrice.roosmark: In Florida I get a gallon for $13

_therowanhouse_: Buying direct from our local farm in Florida, 12$. Buying from our local health food store, same brand same price with a 5% multiples discount. But I’ve also seen the same brand selling at others stores near me for $15+. Another farm selling their milk near me is 16$ a gallon. Sheep milk in North/Central Florida selling at 12-16 per half gallon.

baronvonbarenhaus: $8/ gallon in Southern Illinois straight from the farm.

tyler_sr: 8 in Illinois

thebakingfarmgirl: $14/gal in Tennessee

homesteaderbjj: $8/gal for raw A2/A2 milk in Kentucky

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