490 million litres of milk is thrown away each year. What a waste! Not just in terms of the cost to shoppers, but also for the cows that spend their lives producing this great food, our natural resources and the environment.
A UN Report in 2015 estimates the population will grow to just under 10 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050. Alongside these estimates are the conversations about how to feed everyone and this often leads to the idea that the only way to do this is through intensifying milk production. UK milk production was at its highest for 20 years in May of this year, but the 490 million litres we threw away equates to 7% of total milk produced, so do we really need to scale up if we’re throwing so much away?
The business model for intensive dairy farming is to produce lots of milk as cheaply as possible. It delivers a commodity product with little thought about provenance and taste, but more about logistics. But you wouldn’t know that because around every milk aisle will be pictures of cows grazing in fields, although some of milk on the shelves will be from cows that never go outside.
The drive for cheap milk can also mean that the price in the stores is lower than the cost of production to the farmers. A business model putting farmers out of business, leading to more calls to intensify the dairy industry to feed the growing population.
When it’s just about price then the cheapest milk producers win, but by chasing milk based solely on price we’re in danger of losing a value asset. You might think milk is milk, but not all milk is the same.
We set up Free Range Dairy Network to preserve low impact dairy farming that utilises grass to produce milk and gives cows the freedom to graze a minimum 180 days and nights per year. By valuing milk more and how it is produced we believe this can go towards halting milk waste. Instead of seeing milk just as something you splash into a cup of tea or coffee, we see it for what it is. A powerhouse of nutrients, full of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. The UK is an iodine deficient nation and just one glass a day meets our requirements. There’s a lot packed into free range milk.
Milk produced to Pasture Promise standards tastes better, pays the farmers a premium they can invest back into their farms and the care of their cow and works to protect the environment.
If you drink milk, then we need to be looking at more ways to improve our relationship with milk, so we value it more and waste less. If you have ideas, solutions and anything to add, come and join us at Spilt Milk Event on 18th June at Friska Harbourside at 6pm, as part of Bristol Food Connections.