I came away from our first Free Range Dairy Network conference this year feeling very positive. Not only did we have about 70 can-do people attend the conference but we also had some fantastic news from Yeshna Mistry from Sustainability Restaurant Association. Their new sustainability rating includes points for members taking Pasture Promise free range milk.  We’ve worked hard to achieve this so that was a great piece of news to share with our audience.

The reason we held the conference was to showcase the work we’re doing, to strengthen the collaboration between the Network but also give like- minded people the opportunity to come together to discuss positive solutions to the dairy industry.

The first speaker was Daniel Nowland, Head of Technical at the Jamie Oliver Group. His presentation included a film that highlighted the crazy food cycle we’re supporting that encourages the intensification of farming including animals, not to feed a growing population but to encourage food waste, over consumption and obesity. When campaigns aimed at reducing food waste took off with consumers, supermarkets lost £16 billion in food sales. It demonstrates consumers can drive change and the choices we make help shape the food available and how its produced.

Prof Michael Lee spoke about Grazing Towards Sustainability who through his work with the Global Farm Platform looks at the importance of pasture to deliver healthy food for a growing population. We are what we eat and cows are no different. A study by Newcastle University 2015 found that –‘ A switch to pasture-based dairy products would increase the intake of milk’s beneficial compounds and reduce consumption of less desirable saturated fatty acids.’  Showing that milk from cows that graze pasture is healthier but also it is more sustainable to make the most of natural resources. Giving cows freedom to graze for a minimum of 180 days and nights is a win for the cows, consumers and our carbon footprint.

An important part of the agenda for the day was to hear from people we work with. Chris and Steph from Stephenson’s Dairy spoke from the heart when they took us on a journey of why they wanted to be the first to sell Pasture Promise Free Range milk to their Lancashire and Cumbria market. Jenni from Barhouse Farm gave a very passionate presentation about her love for farming and her cows, who she considers part of the family. As well as Eddie from Our Cow Molly, talking about how he and his family set up their own processing plant so they will have independence to run their own business delivering free range milk under the Pasture Promise logo to Sheffield.

All the people giving presentations as well as the audience were there to listen and share knowledge about the issues facing the dairy industry. It felt like a room full of people that are doers not talkers which is what we need if we’re to shape the most sustainable food and farming practices that benefit people, animals and planet.

We hope to make this an annual event and If you didn’t get the chance to attend this year, we hope to see you next time.

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