If I have got the German translation right, it appears that the Lower Saxony Agricultural Minister, Christian Meyer, is seeking to ban retailers from marketing milk and dairy products with images of cows in fields if they are not committed to sourcing milk from grazing herds. A pasture label will be developed together with the Bremen Grassland Centre and the University of Gottingen, to guarantee that the milk comes from cows that are on pasture.
I know that UK consumers want to be able to make an informed choice about the milk and dairy products they buy. People want milk from cows on grass and right now they cannot get any assurance that cows are grazed. Even the organic standards do not give state any specific requirement for a minimum number of days at grass.
This is why I set up Free Range Dairy – to guarantee freedom for cows to graze. Our single most important criteria for free range milk production is 180 days (and nights) at grass each year. I am fed up with seeing retailers and processors plaster images of cows in fields over everything, whilst the reality is they are mixing milk from confined herds and grazed herds. Farmers that choose to graze their cows and produce milk in the way that consumers want it to be produced should win recognition for the way they farm. The Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise label is intended to help them do just that.
It isn’t easy for us to deliver free range milk to consumers across the UK right now, since small, regional processors have gone out of business as the big retailers have taken over the milk market. But we can make it happen. What I really need right now are two things:
- Farmers to sign up to our Pasture Promise and declare themselves free range.
- Consumers and all supporters to sign up to our Pasture Promise and pledge their support for Free Range Dairy.
We must seize the opportunity now. The reality is that if we don’t, big business will grab the Free Range Dairy concept, come up with some half-baked version and give farmers nothing in return. We have a real opportunity to secure a supply of healthy British milk for generations to come. Please don’t let it slip through your fingers.