Things feel like they are really moving on with Free Range Dairy. The feedback on defining standards for production has been excellent and we now moving forward from a simple belief in the value of pasture-based milk production, to making that milk available to UK consumers.
I make no apologies for declaring that Free Range Dairy has, as one of its core objectives, improving the price paid to farmers. From the outset my mission has been about delivering what is good for the cow, the consumer and the farmer. In order to achieve this we now need to distinguish milk from free range herds and allow people to make an informed choice about the milk and dairy products they buy. Step one in this process is about clear definition of what Free Range Dairy means and a simple set of standards will soon be published. Beyond this, we must establish how we will achieve formal recognition of these standards and practices to enable farmers to label their milk as free range.
I have consulted both Companies House and The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on registering Free Range Dairy as an organisation and a brand. The law regarding Trade Marks and Certification Marks is quite complex but not prohibitive to our ambitions. I envisage that Free Range Dairy will operate as a certification body that will set standards for free range milk production and police them in a similar way to the Soil Association setting standards for organic farming under its label. Free Range Dairy will act as a central hub for producers, providing technical information, facilitating knowledge transfer and promoting the values of milk from free range herds.
Free Range Dairy certification will allow those who wish to market their own milk (producer processors for example) to continue using their established brand, with added assurance provided by a Free Range Dairy label. In addition, Free Range Dairy will help to create regional pools of milk for those farmers selling to larger processors and market their milk as free range. Once Free Range Dairy standards have been finalised, producers will be asked to make The Pasture Promise and adhere to those standards, for which they will be offered a certificate. Once the Certification Mark has been formally registered, the process of ensuring that Free Range Dairy producers comply to these standards will begin. This will require a simple on-farm audit carried out by an independent assessor. Once registered as formally compliant, members will then be able to use the Free Range Dairy label on their milk and dairy products.
There is of course, more detail to this journey from a belief to a brand and I will update everyone with progress on a regular basis. But, I hope this gives you some insight into the way forward. As always your thoughts and ideas are welcome. Free Range Dairy is being created by farmers for farmers – be a part of it.