Tyrants in Michigan seize $90,000 worth of farm-to-table foods grown by Nourish Coop
06/17/2024 // Lance D Johnson // Views

On Tuesday, May 28th, the Nourish Farm Coop of Marcellus, Michigan underwent a surprise inspection conducted by officers of the state of Michigan. The inspected resulted in the cease and desist of over $90,000 worth of products, mostly raw dairy.

Nourish Cooperative was established in September 2023 by Ashley Armstrong and her sister Sarah, along with other first-generation regenerative farmers. The Coop aims to meet the increasing demand for farm-fresh products. Their products, including raw milk, sourdough and grass-fed, corn- and soy-free meat, had garnered significant interest and are shipped to all 50 United States.

State of Michigan first targeted Nourish Coop in November 2023

The coop's first encounter with government thugs occurred the previous fall on November 3, 2023, when 15 of their corn- and soy-free, low-PUFA hogs were seized due to a processing misunderstanding. Note, these animals were raised as healthy and natural as possible and were even raised on rotational grazing practices that diversified the nutrition in their diets.

Witnessing the seizure firsthand, the coop owners were forced to dispose of the carcasses, pour used motor oil on them and transport them to a nearby landfill. The experience was devastating, not only due to the loss of thousands of dollars' worth of good food, but also because it represented a waste of the animals' lives.

Despite this setback, Nourish Cooperative persevered, expanding its product range to include various meats, bone broths and dairy products. Aware of the challenges surrounding raw dairy sales, especially in light of differing state laws, they opted to sell their raw dairy as a pet food supplement in compliance with Michigan regulations.

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Latest raid uses labeling misunderstanding to seize $90,000 in raw dairy products

That’s when the state of Michigan cracked down on them again, this time targeting their raw cheese. On May 28, 2024, while fulfilling over 350 orders, the coop was confronted with another raid. Government inspectors, including human food, animal food and dairy inspectors, arrived in a marked car to conduct the inspection. Raw cheese -- regulated by federal law to be legal if aged for at least 60 days in a legitimate, inspected facility -- suddenly came into question. All raw dairy products, including milk, cheese and butter, were seized, totaling over $90,000 worth of goods. This meant the products couldn't be sold, used or moved without a government official present.

Brandon, the coop’s head of operations, declined to lead the inspectors around the facility, citing discomfort and pointing out "NO TRESPASSING" signs. However, due to the cooperative's Food Warehouse License in Michigan, inspectors were granted access and proceeded to examine fridges and freezers, ultimately seizing all raw dairy products, including raw cheese.

Despite providing the plant number for the cheese, which had been previously communicated to the main food inspector, the inspectors claimed it was not identifiable on the label. The "label miscommunication" led to the cheese being placed under seizure.

Even though the coop submitted the new labels in March and had their pet food license check cashed, the cooperative faced immediate product seizure during the surprise inspection, rather than being given an opportunity to address the labeling concerns beforehand. Efforts were made to rectify the labeling issues by resubmitting the labels for approval the same evening as the inspection. However, the coop was informed that selling raw dairy as pet food was illegal in Michigan, contrary to their understanding and observations that other pet food stores were selling similar products.

When Brandon was issued a pre-prepared Cease and Desist letter, he declined to sign it. As a result, the cooperative found themselves in limbo, unable to touch or utilize the seized products, which were now destined to go to waste. This posed significant challenges for their farm's partners, many of whom relied on the cooperative as their primary market. With no clear guidance on how to proceed, the cooperative faces uncertainties about their future operations and their ability to support their partners. The coop has temporarily halted the sale of raw dairy products, except for the raw cheese. They continue to offer grass-fed meats, raw pet food chubs, maple syrup, honey and more on their website, and are asking help from the public to make up for the unnecessary losses that the state of Michigan imposed upon them.

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