On my way to where I work I decided to count the number of coffee shops in one street. There was six, a couple of the usual coffee chains but predominately it was the independents coffee shops that had the most outlets, showing that customers are looking for something new and unique, great quality coffee with a good story. Nestled amongst them was a pub or two, where people used to hang out before coffee culture took over. Wherever you look you can’t deny that coffee has firmly become part of the UK’s psyche whether it’s an old classic like a cappuccino or latte, the newer preference of a flat white or cortado. What they all have in common is they come with milk.
The great thing the independent coffee shops and some of the chains have done is raise our understanding about how sourcing ethical, sustainable coffee in this way also helps the coffee growers and their communities. But for many years the quality and provenance of coffee beans has been the only story told by innovators in the coffee movement, whilst the contribution made by milk has been largely overlooked.
According to Mintel ‘Over the last five years, the coffee market rose by 37%, up from £2.4 billion in 2011 to reach an impressive £3.4 billion in 2016. What is more, between 2015 and 2016 sales increased by a spectacular 10.4% – the biggest year-on-year boost witnessed in the last five years.’
Whilst this amazing coffee growth was happening in the UK, the story of the dairy farmers has been very different. More than a 1,000 dairy farms have gone out of business since June 2013, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) with nearly one in 10 dairy farms across England and Wales dispersing their herds and selling up, in the last three years.
So why has one boomed, whilst the other has suffered crisis after crisis? One reason could be that whilst people are happy to splash the white stuff into their cups of coffee, few really understand it’s value, or contemplate its provenance and that’s the reason Free Range Dairy Network is launching its Coffee & Cows Campaign. For too long milk has been relegated to a cheap commodity, something almost everyone uses but no one really gives much thought to – until now. The situation is now becoming critical, with the very real prospect of small, pasture-based dairy herds disappearing from our rural landscape, unless we can begin to appreciate that not all milk is the same. The net result of our ignorance about milk and the farms and cows that produce it means, the industry is consolidating into the hands of fewer and larger farms, adopting an increasingly intensive regime to deliver more for less.
Some people might think that putting the Pasture Promise logo on a milk bottle is just a marketing gimmick, but I can you assure it’s not. The farmers who have joined our Network have done so because they badly need an identity in the marketplace, if they are to have any future. The Pasture Promise logo represents a widely available, added value proposition for farmers who produce great tasting milk that had previously been lost in a vast milk lake. It can play the same part that Fairtrade and Direct Trade has payed in telling the story about their coffee beans.
Anyone seeing the joy in the cows’ as they run out of the barns after the winter indoors and into the fields will understand that cows love being outside in the fields. It’s not just the farmers we’re working to protect with this campaign but the freedom for cows as well. If you close your eyes for a minute and think about a British dairy farm, you are probably seeing images of a Free Range Dairy farm in your mind.
We’re offering you a chance to vote for the kind of farms you want your milk to come from and help revive local businesses that put quality and service before price. We’re lucky to be finding more and more suppliers like Stephenson’s Dairy, Jones Bros, Dales Dairies, Our Cow Molly, Barkhouse Dairy, Northney Dairy to name a few to work with to supply milk to local and regional markets.
Cotteswold Dairy who source their milk from nine local farms in Gloucestershire, have won a Great Taste award two years running for their free range milk carrying the Pasture Promise logo. The people we work with are already putting milk carrying the Pasture Promise free range into coffee shops and the feedback has been amazing. The taste, how it froths and its creamy texture. We know we have a great story to tell and the coffee movement could go a long way to help save our traditional pasture based dairy farmers. So, every time you buy a cup of coffee think about the milk in your cup. If you want to support farmers and the cows, ask for your coffee with Pasture Promise free range milk.