Raw milk wars play out in new film at Siskel Center

You may not know it but thousands of Chicagoans--perhaps your friends and neighbors--are indulging daily in an illicit drink that most government agencies warn consumers to avoid.

It's raw, unpasteurized milk, a drink that supporters say is only growing in popularity even as government agencies crack down harder on farmers who produce, transport and sell it. 

The recent film "Farmageddon" which opens tomorrow at the Gene Siskel Film Center documents the plight of farmers whose businesses and homes have been raided at gunpoint for selling their milk.

While raw milk sales are legal under specific circumstances, the farmers in the film feel they are being unfairly targeted, not because of illegalities, but other agendas. And although most agree that raw milk can carry risks, its drinkers say they believe those risks are outweighed by the health benefits they say they derive from the drink.

An armed raid on the Rawsome raw food co-op in Venice Beach, California earlier this month prompted outrage from incredulous customers, ncluding actress Mariel Hemingway, who speak out here.  The film covers another armed raid of the private food co-op that happened last summer but never resulted in any arrests. It also covers raw milk suppliers closer to Chicago who have battled with regulators and Joel Salatin whose Polyface farm was featured in "Food Inc." and "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

On a broader level, the film--whose full name is "Farmageddon: The Unseen War on America's Family Farms"--explores the hardships of small, local and sustainable family farms, the kind who serve many local farmers markets but often struggle to make it.  

Filmmaker Kristin Canty will discuss the film at Saturday and Monday screenings. If you go on the Siskel site you can watch a trailer and even find out about how to get discounted tickets for a Friday screening.





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