I was asked to give my thoughts on organic food and farming on Emma Britton’s programme on BBC Radio Somerset yesterday morning.
I hope I gave a fair and balanced view of organic farming versus ‘conventional’ and my rationale for deciding not to convert to organic made some sense. I did ask some questions about organic milk production on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and never got any answers. My questions arose following some things I read on the Organic Milk Suppliers Coop (OMSCo) website, as I think there are a few confusing messages on there.
If you go the website www.organicmilk.co.ukthere is a tab called ‘Free Range Cows’, which of course interested me. I tried to find out just how “free range” organic cows are. There doesn’t seem to be any defined number of days at grass stipulated and I think there will be a wide range across organic herds, as there is in conventional herds.
The OMSCo website then goes on to say “Cows naturally form social groups of about 40 and they like socialising with the same cows each day. Our farmers can recognise these groups and will milk them together”. I did ask on Twitter how OMSCo could ensure that cows were kept in ideal group sizes of 40, but haven’t had any answer to this.
The website also says that cows are milked “once, twice, or even three times a day”, which seems a bit strange as normally only those farmers pursuing very high milk yields milk their cows as much as three times a day. So I wonder why this would be practiced on organic farms.
I am not anti-organic farming, as I hope is evident from my radio interview. But, if organic milk is to earn a premium it must be based on clear distinction, as an increasing number of conventional farmers are now adopting simpler pasture-based systems – reducing inputs, making better grass and breeding more robust cattle breeds.
You can listen to the interview via the following link