A while back I posted a story about Dutch dairy farmers being rewarded for grazing their dairy cows by the milk processor Friesland Campina. The premium farmers receive is EUR 0.50 per 100 kg milk. To receive the premium, a dairy farmer must allow his or her cows to graze outdoors for at least 120 days a year for at least six hours a day. A scheme has also been devised for partial outdoor grazing. This applies to dairy farmers who do not meet the standards for outdoor grazing milk, but who allow a quarter of their herd to graze outdoors for at least 120 days. Friesland Campina took this initiative because many Dutch people like to see cows grazing in the Dutch landscape.
Whilst I personally feel that 120 days at grass is not long enough for free range cows, it does seem that the demand for milk from grazing herds is growing in the Netherlands and Friesland Campina are committed to promoting a better understanding of the benefits of milk from grass. This is why I am asking more farmers to sign up to our Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise.
I have started to get one or two enquiries about free range milk from UK processors. Not all milk is the same. We, the primary producers, have enormous scope to differentiate our milk from cheap, commodity white stuff that sloshes around the world in one form or another. So let’s grab it!
The following from the Friesland Campina website explains why Dutch consumers are now being offered the choice to buy milk form grazed herds.
Milk is milk, but not all milk is the same’. For the Campina brand in the Netherlands and Belgium, the difference in a product as everyday as milk begins with the dairy farmer and his or her cows. This puts the consumer back in touch with the origin of milk. Can this be qualified as a production, process or chain innovation?
Campina milk is milk and as such is purely natural. Because milk is a natural product, its composition can be affected by nature, changing with the seasons and the weather, for example. The difference in the composition of Campina milk and standard milk changes throughout the year, but on an annual basis, Campina milk must contain at least 20% more unsaturated fat than standard milk.
The idea behind this milk came about in a very natural way. For years, it has been known that if cows graze outdoors in the spring, the milk they produce has a different fatty acid content compared to the rest of the year. The special composition of the spring grass also gives the milk a special composition, with more unsaturated fatty acids (and thus fewer saturated fatty acids). Feed therefore influences the composition of the milk: not just in the spring, but throughout the year.
For decades, western countries have had the motto ‘Milk is milk and all milk is the same’. Even though brands derive their strength by distinguishing themselves intrinsically and emotionally from the competition. And even though insiders were well aware that milk is never the same – particularly the composition of the fat content, which changes throughout the year.
This led us in 2003 to join forces with some of our dairy farmers in Belgium to work on the idea that the composition of milk could be influenced. We found that cows that were given special, natural supplementary feed combined with outdoor grazing produced milk with a different fatty acid composition. Even though Belgium is not known as a country of avid milk drinkers, the concept took off among its consumers. Campina, which was already the largest milk brand in the Netherlands, developed into the largest milk brand in Belgium as well. In 2007, the time was ripe to apply the concept in the Netherlands, too, but with Dutch dairy farmers, Dutch cows, Dutch feed suppliers and of course fresh Dutch Campina milk. And in the Netherlands as well, the initiative bolstered the position of the Campina brand.