Shayn and Kristen Bowler went on a complicated journey for 2½ years so they could sell raw milk from their store, Utah Natural Meat, in West Jordan, Utah.
They’d sold raw milk there before, but the dairy that supplied it decided they didn’t want to milk cows anymore, so the Bowlers decided to brave the regulations and requirements and set up a dairy on their own farm.
They started by moving some of their beef cows to Kanosh and brought dairy cows to the farm in West Jordan. Then they started the long, strange process of being able to milk their own cows and sell milk to the public.
The first step was to go to West Jordan and have their property rezoned for agriculture and apply for a dairy permit.
The next step was to go to the state and tell them they planned on operating a dairy. The state reviewed their plan which needed to include separate rooms in the barn for milking, holding and bottling. They also needed to meet Grade A cleanliness standards in order to sell raw milk. Another requirement was that they could only milk by machine, not by hand. They also learned that the rooms could not be connected, but must be separate, and the doors could only swing out and must be auto-closing.
Then they were off to the county to get a septic tank permit. After all the permits were in place, construction began. This entailed going back to West Jordan for building permits and inspections. After completion, the state and county did walkthroughs, and final approval was granted.
Two and a half years later, on April 14, 2016, they sold their first bottle of raw milk.
Why go to all the trouble? The Bowlers already sold natural grass-fed meat. But as Shayn explains, “Boiled, pasteurized, milk kills everything in it. It kills the harmful bacteria, but it also kills all the good, advantageous bacteria, vitamins and minerals. All you have left is dead bacteria and sugar.” He compared it to boiling vegetables where all the nutrients are left in the water.
Right now they are a small operation, milking just 15 Jersey cows chosen for the nutrition content of their milk. In the six weeks they’ve been open, they have people lining up at the door, and often sell out of milk.
But they still have regulations to contend with. Once a month the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food tests samples of milk from the store fridges and the bulk tanks. Standards are higher for raw milk than for commercial milk. The milk is tested for somatic cell count, standard plate count (a check for bacteria), chloroforms and antibiotic residue. The amounts allowed are much lower than they are for pasteurized milk. Every three months, UDAF inspects the entire facility. The system allows that if three warnings are ever issued, they can be suspended from selling milk.
Even at $9 a gallon, “we won’t get rich,” Shayn says. But working on land his family has owned for generations, using horses for farm chores instead of tractors, and raising grass-fed animals is a reward in and of itself. “The city has grown up around us,” Shayn observes, “and I believe we are the only dairy left in all of Salt Lake County.”
The farm is a tranquil oasis in a growing development of highways and big box stores. But, just a few steps down the long driveway is like entering a different place and time.
Utah Natural Meat is located at 7400 South 5600 West in West Jordan, Utah. The store is open Tuesday & Thursday from 2:00-6:00 pm and Saturday from 9:00 am-3:00 pm.
Story by Connie Lewis