When I set Free Range Dairy in 2011, it was largely born out of my frustration at the lack of value in British milk and the constant struggle for farmers to achieve a fair reward for what they produced. What started as movement to allow farmers who graze their cows to distinguish themselves from intensive farms, is now moving on towards branding a way of farming that has served our nation so well and make free range milk widely available in the marketplace. That’s why now Free Range Dairy means business.
In almost every British household, milk is seen as an essential part of the diet, along with dairy products such as butter and cheese. But, the modern day supply chain continually fails to deliver dairy farmers a price that does anything more than cover the basic costs of production and, in many instances, milk is produced at a loss. No wonder then that the exodus of producers from the industry continues.
Large retailers have labelled milk a basic commodity – cheap ‘white stuff’ with little or no value in its provenance, in a bid to win market share. As a result, British dairy farmers find themselves being sucked into a global contest to deliver milk at the lowest possible price. So, how do we win back value in what was once regarded as a nutrient rich food that sustained both the young and the old?
I believe it is vital that dairy farmers work together to win recognition and value for the raw material that leaves the farm gate – helping consumers to understand that not all milk is the same and the way in which is produced on farms is the single biggest influence on its quality. That is what Free Range Dairy is attempting to do – instil real value in the traditional way milk is produced on the majority of British farms, based on seasonally grazed herds. Producers committed to grazing their cows can work towards accreditation under the Pasture Promise label, which will provide consumers with a clear assurance that the milk and dairy they buy, is coming from farms committed to providing freedom for their cows to graze and delivering healthy milk.
On October 14th we will be a holding a meeting for anyone interested in producing milk to free range standards, which we are developing and explore opportunities to market free range milk. The meeting will take place at Hunstile Organic Farm, near Bridgwater in Somerset. To find out more details about the meting and book a place please click here.
The Free Range Dairy Network has recently been registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC), led by myself and fellow director Carol Lever, to enable us to invite farmers, academics and all supporters of pasture-based milk production to join up and work to promote a better understanding of the value of milk from these farms. For some, this value may be in the form of the nutritional value of milk from grass, the freedom for cows to graze, or preservation of the rural landscape. For others it is simply an opportunity to support British dairy farmers.
Together we can build consumer loyalty, improve efficiency on farms and lift British milk out of the commodity market, to reduce the damaging effects of price volatility. All we need is a little of your time.