Baltimore has always had serious drug and crime problems.
Much of this is a result of the War on Drugs and the prohibition of substances that the state has deemed a risk to public health. And this isn’t exclusive to things like cocaine and heroin, either. In fact, there’s one illegal substance that created a very profitable underground market in Charm City, but it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of it.
I actually discovered this market about ten years ago, and I was blown away by how sophisticated it was. It involved Baltimore-based distributors who would traffic these illegal substances from entire families of suppliers in South Central Pennsylvania to a distribution network in North Baltimore.
Those who bought these illegal substances were typically vetted by dealers, and those dealers would make deliveries to a centralized location where users could come and get their fix.
I had yet to experiment with this illegal substance at the time, but it was fairly obvious that typically law-abiding citizens were more than willing to break the law to get it. Although it’s not addictive, and in fact, when produced responsibly, is actually quite healthy for you.
It’s called raw milk, and it’s illegal to sell in the state of Maryland. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Department of Agriculture actually enforce the prohibition of the substance.
There was a work-around, though, and it operated in a sort of gray area where Amish farmers in Pennsylvania would sell raw milk to members of what’s called a “food club.” But in 2012, the Feds put the kibosh on that after a federal district judge banned an Amish farmer from selling raw milk to Maryland residents who were members of the local food club.
The crazy part is not just that the Feds would ban an Amish farmer from selling raw milk, but the FDA actually spent two years worth of undercover work to bust an Amish farmer selling raw milk to people who actually went out of their way to get it.
When this news got out, there was a running joke that the Feds created a Raw Milk Mafia by treating raw milk producers the same way they treat heroin dealers. It was just beyond absurd.
100 Years of Lactoferrin Lunacy
The prohibition of raw milk actually goes all the way back to 1924, when federal policy recommended the pasteurization of milk. This was back when there were no accurate testing protocols to test milk for things such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium. Modern refrigeration was not commonplace at that time, either. So indeed, there were very real health concerns attached to the consumption of raw milk. But that particular recommendation didn’t outlaw the sale of raw milk. That didn’t happen until 1987, when the FDA banned the shipping of raw milk in interstate commerce. It is actually a violation of federal law to sell raw milk across state lines. Although it should be noted that individual states have the right to regulate the sale of raw milk within the confines of their borders.
Now I was told about the dangers of raw milk at a young age. I actually remember my science teacher telling us stories about women having miscarriages after drinking tainted raw milk. Of course, that was decades ago, when again, we did not have effective testing protocols or much in the way of modern refrigeration.
In all fairness, the production of raw milk does require far more attention to safety than conventional milk. And in fact, conventional dairies have anywhere from 1,000 to more than 15,000 cows. With herds that large, it would be nearly impossible to safely produce and test raw milk. Particularly when you consider just how dirty many of these industrial dairy farms are.
You know, the ones where cows are forced to wallow in their own shit and piss and are then shot up with antibiotics to ensure they don’t die. Something that wouldn’t happen if those “farms” weren’t breeding grounds for dangerous pathogens.
So yes, I understand why an industrial dairy farm would find it difficult to safely sell raw milk. But what about small farms? Farms that maybe only have 20 or 30 cows. Cows that are not confined in virtual petri dishes, but instead, wander around their fields, freely.
Not only can many of these small farms produce raw milk in a safe and secure way, but this raw mlk can provide a much-needed source of income for these small farms that don’t benefit from all the corporate welfare these bigger farms get.
Now about seven years ago, I started buying raw milk directly from a local farm. There’s a workaround in the state of New York, where I live now, that allows for the sale of raw milk for on-farm purchases.
I actually remember asking the farmer about raw milk, the first time I bought it. Asking about the safety profile, as I had been conditioned to believe that it could be dangerous. His response: "Don’t worry. If you die, we’ll throw your body up on the compost pile."
I knew at that very instance, I liked that guy.
The Absurdity of Government
The reason I wanted to try raw milk was because I had read about how potentially healthy it was. Some of the advantages of raw milk include …
- The presence of beneficial bacteria which can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.
- Higher levels of beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals that cannot survive the pasteurization process.
- High levels of antibodies that can help protect against certain infections.
There’s also some evidence that suggests the consumption of raw milk can result in a sort of protection against seasonal allergies.
While I’m not a scientist and can’t prove without a shadow of a doubt that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, as an adult, don’t I have the right to at least try it out for myself?
For the most part, the government doesn’t think so. Although some of these laws on a state level are changing. While the interstate distribution and sale of raw milk is banned by the federal government, individuals seeking access to raw milk are either openly breaking the law to get it, or are working with local policy makers and farmers to open up the market.
I do think it’s absurd, however, that I can walk into a liquor store in Baltimore and buy a pack of Marlboros, a bottle of Jack and a can of Monster Energy Drink, but I’m not allowed to buy and drink a glass of raw milk.
But such is the absurdity of overzealous policy makers that oftentimes know little about that which they are regulating. And it never seems to stop.
Take cultured meat, for instance. That is, meat produced from animal cells in a lab. It’s real meat, but instead of it being grown in an animal, it’s grown in bioreactors.
It’s still a relatively new technology, but the potential benefits compared to traditional meat production are hard to ignore. These include, but are not limited to …
- Reductions in water usage
- Reductions in land usage
- The near elimination of waste streams from feedlots
- Reductions in carbon emissions
- Less chances of contamination from bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
And perhaps most importantly, the potential to reduce food insecurity and battle hunger.
While the cost to produce cultured meat today is still relatively high compared to traditional meat production, eventually, those costs will fall below traditional meat production costs. Why else do you think companies such as Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN), JBS (OTCBB: JBSAY), Ingredion (NYSE: INGR), and Cargill have been investing millions into cultured meat research and production?
According to a recent McKinsey & Co report, the cost to produce cultured meat could reach parity with conventional meat production by 2030. This is pretty amazing when you consider that the very first cultured beef burger cost $325,000 to produce in 2013. Today, it costs less than $20.
To be sure, this massive decline in production costs is primarily the result of technological innovation being funded and nurtured by private investment in a relatively free market. Because of that, we’re now witnessing the dawn of a new form of meat production that will ultimately be superior to traditional meat production from an environmental perspective and cost perspective. The result will be a cleaner planet and millions of hungry people getting fed.
There’s literally no downside. But leave it to the government to meddle.
An Affront to Progress
Last week we got word that Florida House Representative Tyler Sirois introduced a bill designed to prohibit the production, distribution and sale of cultured meat in the Sunshine state.
According to Sriois, cultivated meat is an “affront to nature and creation,” which doesn't really seem like a legitimate justification for a law. At least not in a free society.
Perhaps something like this would fly in Syria, where there is currently a law in place which dictates that same-sex intercourse is “unnatural,” and is therefore a violation of Article 520 of the Syrian penal code, punishable by three years in prison. But in the U.S., it would be quite difficult to justify a law banning something that a handful of politicians see as “unnatural.” And that’s a good thing.
Truth is, any legislation designed to ban a product on the basis of it being an affront to nature and creation cannot reasonably exist in a society that is supposed to respect personal freedoms.
It is of no concern to me whether or not Congressman Sirois finds cultured meat to be an affront to nature and creation. And certainly I have no interest in convincing him of all the potential economic, environmental and social benefits that could be spawned from a vibrant cultured meat industry. But I do have an interest in ensuring that no elected official gets to dictate what you and I choose to put in our bodies.
Of course, I make no secret of my investments in cultured meat, either. I maintain that the cultured meat market is a waking giant, and those who take positions early will be well-rewarded in the coming years.
But this is less about an investment opportunity, and more about the opportunity to defend our basic freedoms and liberties from those who wish to limit them, based not on that which is good for our country, but instead, good for a select few who believe their own personal philosophies about nature and religion are more important than our right to live free of laws and regulations that are simply unjustified, and arguably illegitimate, in a free society.