A Hennepin County jury will resume deliberating on Thursday whether a Stearns County farmer violated the state's food safety laws when he distributed raw milk from an Amish farm to Twin Cities customers.
Alvin Schlangen of Freeport is charged with three misdemeanor counts, including selling unpasteurized milk, operating without a food license and handling adulterated or misbranded food. After three days of trial, the jury began deliberating on Wednesday afternoon.
Schlangen, an organic egg farmer, doesn't produce milk himself but operates a private club called Freedom Farms Co-op with roughly 130 members who buy various farm products, including raw milk. Schlangen picks up milk products from an Amish farm and delivers them to members who lease the cows.
Raw milk is unpasteurized, meaning it hasn't been heat-treated to kill pathogens. Under Minnesota law, it can be sold directly to consumers only on the farm where it's produced.
During closing arguments, Schlangen's attorney, Nathan Hansen, argued that Schlangen was not operating a business, rather a private food club, and that no one got sick from the raw milk. He called the case against Schlangen a cynical view of the law.
"It's absurd, it doesn't make any sense; it doesn't have any common sense," he said.
Assistant Minneapolis City Attorney Michelle Doffing-Baynes said food safety laws are in place to prevent people from getting sick.
"A person in the U.S. can go into any grocery store, buy an apple and have no concerns," she said. "A person can buy an apple in a foreign country and have concerns. Why? Food safety laws."
Several Schlangen supporters, their small children in tow, filled the courtroom throughout the trial. Schlangen and members of the co-op testified on his behalf.