Would you love to visit a grass fed family farm where you can fill up a glass bottle with farm-fresh raw milk from a vending machine explicitly made for this purpose? In the U.K., this is not at all unusual. In fact, raw milk vending machines are becoming increasingly popular, including the one recently installed at Home Farm, a dairy farm in Hassop, England.
In its first two weeks of operation, the farm owners say the machine has been a huge success and received “incredible” customer feedback. Known as the Simply Milk machine, it’s refilled every morning and provides fresh chilled milk from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
One liter of milk (about one-quarter gallon) costs £1.20 (about $1.54), providing a veritable bargain for consumers and an extra income source for the farm. Charlotte Dilks, who runs the farm with her parents and siblings, told Matlock Mercury news:1
“When you pasteurize milk to make it keep longer, the heat process kills a lot of the bacteria, which can be good for your health and gives it more flavor. People love the creamy, fresh taste of raw milk and keep coming back for more.
Children especially love the machine … People also like how they can see the herd in the field across the road and make the connection about where the milk comes from. When you buy a bottle of milk in the supermarket, it’s easy to forget about the cows.”
Europe Makes Access to Raw Milk Easy
Raw milk vending machines provide a convenient outlet for residents to stock up on what is considered a healthy and wholesome food. Self-service machines may be found at farmers markets and small farms as well as in shopping centers and near schools and playgrounds. In addition to England, raw milk is available via vending machines in a number of countries, including:2
In a report written for A Campaign for Real Milk, licensed nutritionist Sylvia Onusic, Ph.D., noted upon her first encounter with a raw milk vending machine in Slovenia that “The major focus was on safety of the milk and maintenance of hygienic conditions before and after dispensing it.”3
After paying for the milk, the machine dispenses it into a container of choice (which can be purchased on-site or provided by the consumer). An ultraviolet light then sanitizes the surface. As for potential machine malfunctions, farmers are connected to the units via a real-time cellphone app, which sends out an alert if there’s a temperature change and even lets farmers check into the machine’s status at any time.
Inspectors are also given key cards so they can access the machines. According to Onusic, “There have been no confirmed reports of illness caused by the raw milk purchased at these machines from government officials or members of the public.” As of 2015, she reports, the raw milk vending machine market was $6.45 million in Europe alone, which is expected to climb to nearly $18 million by 2024.4
Could Raw Milk Vending Machines Come to the US?
Onusic actually pondered bringing a raw milk vending machine to the U.S., but quickly realized such an idea wouldn’t fly, even in her home state of Pennsylvania, where raw milk sales are legal. She noted:5
“[T]he Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture strongly discouraged me from embarking on such an enterprise. A female veterinarian who worked at the Agriculture Department told me it would be a grueling bureaucratic process and said that they would never approve vending machines because there was no way to police them.
Even after I explained how farmers could track their machines via a special iPhone app and stated that inspectors could gain access to the machine at any time with an entry key, the idea seemed unfathomable to her.”
Ironically, while selling raw milk from a vending machine is considered virtually sacrilegious, farmers could, if they so desired, sell pasteurized milk and milk powder products from vending machines, including those packed with added sugars (not much different from vending machines selling soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages).
It’s not entirely surprising, considering raw milk is considered to be a public health enemy in the U.S., unlike in much of Europe, where it’s considered essential to such delicacies as traditional French cheese. Pennsylvania cheesemaker Sue Miller explained to Mother Nature Network:6
"There are all these great enzymes living in the milk when it's raw that create flavor profiles. When milk is pasteurized, they get extinguished so you have to add cultures to accentuate the flavors of the milk …
I'd love for people to really try raw milk cheese. In Europe people don't want pasteurized cheese. They know how good raw milk cheese is.”
Even the royal family demands raw milk. According to The Globe and Mail, “Queen Elizabeth drinks her milk raw. She reportedly thinks so highly of unpasteurized milk that, when her grandsons Princes William and Harry were students at Eton, she instructed herdsman Adrian Tomlinson to bottle up raw milk from her Windsor herd and deliver it to them at school.”7,8