‘The White Stuff’. That’s what one promotional campaign once called it. In recent years farmers supplying large volumes of milk for the liquid milk market have been said to be on ‘White Water Contracts’ – so called because of the low fat requirements.
Is that how you regard your milk? As white water or the white stuff? I’m not surprised if you do, because in today’s market place milk ends up a very different product to that which leaves the farm gate. Pasteurisation, homogenisation, standardisation are some of the processes that milk goes through to ensure a consistent product appears on the supermarket shelf day after day. Consistently stripped of nutrients and taste, consistently commoditised and consistently undervalued.
I think it’s time we got back to enjoying the value of real milk that comes from British farms, celebrating its seasonality, and putting the flavour of our countryside back into milk and dairy products. But, this means that the dairy industry has to acknowledge that not all milk is the same. Large processors and retailers pool milk from all kinds of farms in the name of logistics and economies of scale and I have been criticised by some for pointing out that there is a difference in milk from different systems of production. But, the truth is, the way we manage our cows impacts upon the quality of the milk that comes from them and the life the cow herself enjoys.
If some farmers want to gear up their farming operation to produce large volumes of commodity milk on an industrial scale that is their choice. But, for many (particularly small producers who are disadvantaged in the modern supply chain), there has to be another way and I believe that their future lies in the value, not the volume, of their milk. I’m sorry if this is seen as divisive by some industry commentators but some of us are not prepared to see a wonderful and valuable asset lost forever.
Free Range Dairy aims to help consumers make an informed choice about the milk and dairy products they buy. For too long, people have been buying a perception of British milk, based on images of cows in fields. I want to make that perception a reality.