Raw Milk, Risk, and the Politics of Knowledge

Few foods inspire more enthusiasm or vitriol than raw – or unpasteurized – milk. Raw milk drinkers believe it promotes health and wellness, while its detractors say it is a food safety hazard. Raw Milk, Risk, and the Politics of Knowledge explores perspectives on risk and expertise as they play out across the U.S. dairyscape, focusing on the question of unpasteurized milk.

Stemming from my experiences working on a dairy farm in 2012, this project piloted what would become the critical Q methodology framework to measure and compare perspectives of key dairy industry stakeholders in Western Pennsylvania. I consider how the identified factors illustrate acts of boundary-work between strongly bi-polar pro- and anti-raw milk stakeholders – narratives which are highlighted in most popular media portrayals of the raw milk debate. However, I also demonstrate numerous perspectives that transgress this dichotomous framing.

An offshoot of this project investigates the history and development of the raw milk movement in the U.S. I apply critical race theory and post-colonial frameworks to examine the central role played by the Weston A. Price Foundation in shaping the racial and colonial politics of the raw milk movement. This project dovetails with additional work considering the racialized portrayal of milk as a cornerstone of the Got Milk advertising campaign and other ‘building healthy bodies’ narratives, and traces these views have become codified into U.S. nutritional guidelines.

Selected Presentations:

Sneegas, G. 2018. A Political Ecology of Raw Milk: Eugenics, Weston A. Price, and the Foundations of the Raw Milk Movement. Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, Lexington, KY, February 22-24.

Sneegas, G. 2017. Raw milk, risk, and the politics of knowledge. Future of Food Studies Conference, St. Louis, MO, October 19-21.

Sneegas, G. 2016. Producing/consuming food and knowledge: Fertile ground at the intersection of STS and food studies. Panel Title: “Bringing STS to the Table: Exploring Intersections of Knowledge, Power, and Food.” Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, Lexington, KY, February 26-27.

Sneegas, G. 2014. Raw milk, risk, and regulation: Applications for Q methodology in human geography. Southeastern Division of the Association for American Geographers Conference, Athens, GA, November 23-25.

Sneegas, G. 2014. A Q methodological analysis of raw milk, regulation, and risk. Association for the Study of Food and Society/Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Conference, Burlington, VT, June 18-22.

Sneegas, G. 2014. A heated debate: Pasteurization, raw milk, and the role of regulation. Roger Smith Food and Technology Conference, New York City, NY, April 3-5.

Sneegas, G. 2013. Navigating a changing world: The emergence of vat pasteurized milk. Association for the Study of Food and Society/Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Conference, East Lansing, MI, June 19-22.

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