Nothing average about Pasture Promise free range milk.
Today, members of the Free Range Dairy Network are taking provenance and traceability in British milk to a new level, publishing for the first time, details of the number of days and nights that cows supplying free range milk under the Pasture Promise label TM, are grazed on individual farms.
The dairy industry has seen turbulent times in the last few years. Ongoing consolidation in the dairy supply chain, has stripped milk of its provenance and value and traditional, family farms have lost their identity in the marketplace. However, Free Range Dairy Network is helping farmers who produce milk from traditional grazing herds, to win the recognition and reward they deserve. The organisation licenses the logo to producers and dairy companies across the country, to identify milk that comes from farms where cows are assured the freedom to graze in fields for a minimum of 180 days a year. In return, farmers are awarded a premium on their milk price, for their commitment to keeping cows in fields.
For too long, people have been led to believe that all milk is the same. But, the Free Range Dairy initiative shows that this isn’t the case, with many consumers saying they can taste the difference. The Pasture Promise logo helps shoppers make a more informed choice about the kind of farms their milk comes from. People are voting ‘freedom’ for cows with their purses and sales of Pasture Promise free range milk are already over 500,000 litres a month with volumes expected to double in 2018.
The work of Free Range Dairy Network in 2017 and subsequent publicity for the Pasture Promise logo, has led others to hurriedly assimilate grazing credentials for the milk they sell and make claims about the number of days cows spend in fields. Unfortunately, much of this is founded on average numbers of grazing days and limited daily access to pasture and fails to give a true representation of the life of cows on farms. Recent campaigns around ‘fake farm’ labels on supermarket shelves have led to calls for more honest labelling and Free Range Dairy Network is now publishing details of the grazing season, for each individual farm, to highlight that there is nothing average about Pasture Promise free range milk and that none of the milk bearing the Pasture Promise logo comes from large-scale, intensive farms.
Quote – Neil Darwent, Director Free Range Dairy Network:
“For too long, limited access to pasture for some of the cows, some of the time (often only 4 to 6 hours a day), has been used to maintain a widely held perception that all cows enjoy long summer days at grass, in the promotion of dairy brands. The Free Range Dairy Network was established to win a fair deal for farmers and cows, by giving consumers a more informed choice about the kind of farms their milk comes from. So, today, we are publishing details of the number of days that cows are grazed on individual farms supplying milk under the Pasture Promise logo, to give farmers truly committed to keeping cows in fields, a chance to win the recognition they deserve”.
|Member No.||Out to grass by day only||Out to grass day & night||Housed at night only||Housed night & day||Number of days grazed||Number of nights grazed||Grazing derogation days / nights|
The above table shows that whilst the minimum number of days farmers are required to graze their cows for the production of Pasture Promise free range milk is 180, most grazed for well over 200 days in 2017. The table also shows the number of nights cows were grazed.
Farmers are only permitted to bring cows indoors for up to one hour before milking starts and one hour after milking finishes each day (all herds are milked twice a day). However, farmers may apply for a derogation to temporarily house cows during the grazing season if extreme weather threatens to compromise health and welfare of the animals. You will see in the table above that five producers temporarily housed cows during the 2017 grazing season. In each case this was as a result of persistent, heavy rain making fields waterlogged.
Farms in the table are located in Sussex, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. Whilst the grass growing season is typically shorter in the north of England, other factors such as soil type and regional weather patterns determine how many days farmers are able to graze their cows each year.
Quote – Carol Lever, Director Free Range Dairy Network
“Free Range Dairy Network has developed a clear set of standards for the production of free range milk on farms and brought the concept of free range milk to market, under the Pasture Promise logo, in 2015. We believe by publicising our grazing records each year, it will not only strengthen the integrity in our grazing credentials but also encourage others copying the initiative, to either be clearer about the number of days they graze, or to stop using the term ‘free range milk’ as a marketing tool. Dairy farmers need the support of consumers willing to pay a fair price for their milk and it would be a shame to take something that’s working hard to deliver that and use it just to sell more cheaply produced milk.”
Free Range Dairy Network was established in 2014 by Neil Darwent and Carol Lever. It’s a Community Interest Company working to support traditional pasture based dairy farmers in the UK.
The farmer members of Free Range Dairy Network include farmers in Sussex, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, Sheffield and Huddersfield are available for local interviews on request.
A recent report by Ethical Consumer showed growth of 9.7% in Ethical Food & Drink sales, at a time when conventional grocery market has struggled. Sales of Pasture Promise free range milk are now running at over 500,000 litres a month and continue to grow, as shoppers look for great tasting free range milk that guarantees cows are grazed on grass and the farmers are paid a fair price for their milk.