#2. Raw Milk and Cheese
If a certain food item made people sick and led to a quarter of all food-related outbreaks in North America, you'd think we'd all agree that it would probably be a good idea if we stopped consuming it, right? And if there was a way to make that food safe and disease-free, you'd think we'd be on board, right?
This was the situation with raw milk, which was regularly contaminated, possibly because of the fact that it came untreated from the pinched teats of a barnyard animal. Eventually, regulations were put in place in Canada and 11 U.S. states making the sale of raw milk illegal, requiring all milk to be pasteurized in order to stop further outbreaks and illness and cheese made from raw milk to be aged before consumption (which helps, contrary to what you're probably thinking).
But apparently the fact that pathogens, parasites and even poop can find their way into raw milk isn't terrifying enough for some people. For a select few, it didn't seem to matter that, without any pasteurization, there was no way for lovely things like E. coli and salmonella to be killed before it was consumed by people. When raw milk was banned, a bootleg market sprang up, along with a flourishing culture around the illegal goods.
"The Maytag blue curdles when the Colby crows. You have the Gorgonzola?"
We can only assume this meant Prohibition-era gangsters opening up raw-milk speakeasies, doling out half gallon bottles to the tune of secret knocks and handshakes. There are actually articles teaching you how to score raw-milk cheeses illegally, advising potential law breakers about viable stores and coaching them to drop the right hints to trigger the illicit transactions, using key phrases like "special" and "in the French style" to tip the shopkeeper off that you're looking to sling some cheese.
An activist group made up of mothers and their supporters was formed to petition for the right of people to buy E. colicious doo-doo milk and transport it across state lines. They call themselves the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, and we are in no way making that up.
"Wherever a child drinks milk without vomiting, wherever people are willing to
exchange slightly lessened allergies for E. coli, we'll be there."
But perhaps the most vocal and astonishing of the raw-milk advocates is one Michael Schmidt. In order to promote the legalization of raw milk, Schmidt has gone on a hunger strike, vowing to drink only water until he either dies or is given an audience to try and change the legislature. While we admire his courage and tenacity, we'd like to point out that, as stated above, raw milk is only illegal in 11 of the 50 U.S. states. So instead of the whole starvation thing, maybe just move?
"Is that what you would have said to the SLAVES?"
If you found a huge beehive in your garage, your first thought would be to try to figure out how to kill the bastards without just burning the whole garage down around them. It probably wouldn't occur to you that your infestation is valuable to the point that somebody might try to steal it.
"Hot damn, is that a cockroach? This, sir, is a gold mine."
But bees are in short supply right now; populations have recently been suffering due to colony collapse disorder, and no one is exactly sure what causes it. Unfortunately, this makes it a lot harder for beekeepers and farmers. Normally, beekeepers will rent their hives out to farmers whose crops need some sweet cross-pollinating bee sex, with the price of a hive depending upon the total amount of bees that the keepers have in their stable, so to speak. With bee populations dwindling, the keepers have fewer bees available and the price to rent one of their hives skyrockets.
And of course, that's where the black market comes in. Some enterprising individuals have begun sneaking into apiaries and stealing entire hives (over $300,000 worth in California alone). The thieves take the hives, dump the bees into new containers and then sell them back to the farmers.
This rarely works, because individual bees are so damn distinctive.
Hive snatching had always been a danger in the past, but because of the population decline, theft has become almost epidemic. The farmers take numerous precautions, including branding each hive with a state identification number and even installing microchips that can be tracked a la LoJack, but the thieves can get around both of these measures by switching the bees into their own containers. And it's very difficult to tattoo the name of your farm onto an individual bee.
"Shit, I can't even read this. Maybe an anchor tramp stamp would work."
We must admit, the rogue bee-trading business seems to attract some particularly adept thieves who either have nerves of steel or are completely unaware that bees can kill you, because we're not talking about a couple of guys tossing bikes into a pickup truck at one in the morning -- these people are swiping 3-foot-high wooden crates full of angry bees. An entire colony of stinging insects can reduce even the most stalwart master criminal to Macaulay Culkin in My Girl.
"Bees? No, these are ... flies. Because the body of a former child star is in here."
For items you don't need the black market for, check out 7 Items You Won't Believe Are Actually Legal. Or discover how you're already a dirty, filthy crook in 6 Laws You've Broken Without Even Realizing It.