This week celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall sent a letter to The Times in support of British Dairy Farmers.

“Milk is a brilliant food but we have lost sight of its value” said the two high profile foodies and they are absolutely right. The crisis dairy farmers are facing today is as a result of the commoditisation of milk and dairy products by the big retailers. When I started Free Range Dairy, just over a year ago, it was in response to this devaluing of our milk and the role that farmers play in feeding the nation.

I have seen many comments on articles in the press stating that dairy farmers cannot be treated as a ‘special case’, market forces must be allowed to set the price, inefficient small farmers should close down and the like. But, it is at our peril that we treat farming as just another tired, outdated industry. Such complacency is rife in a population who have lived their whole lives in times of plenty.

Supermarket shelves are loaded to the gunnels with all sorts of exciting new offerings, many so heavily processed and packaged that they have become little more than a cocktail of nutrients and additives – a supplement for real food. Why? Not because they are better for you or are cheaper than the real thing but because that is how industrial food companies make big profits. Where is the value for them in simply putting wholesome, natural foods on their shelves? Clever marketing executives realised along time ago that by taking the raw materials of our diet, removing certain components and adding others, they could come up with innovative ideas for a modern diet.

Where has this got us? It’s got us to point where we have an increasingly obese population, primary producers have become little more than slaves to supermarkets and people are willing to turn a blind eye to how animals are reared, because they are more concerned spending their money on a new mobile phone or TV than they are about the food they eat.

We would do to remember the fact that we are what we eat. Farmers produce healthy nutritious milk and other foods that don’t need anything added or taken away in the name of profit. We must shift the focus from the price on the shelf to the real value of the milk that comes form our farms. That value lies in the lives our cows lead, the fabric of our countryside and the healthy nutrients in milk from grass. Farming is not an industry like any other. Free Range Dairy is all about reminding people of that fact and ensuring that we have a secure food supply for the future that is for the benefit of farmers, cows and consumers – not the greedy middlemen. So please tell the supermarket you frequent to STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR FOOD!

You can find copies of the open letter on both Jamie Oliver’s and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s websites using the following links:

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