Milk, a fair deal for farmers and cows?

Dairy farmer David Handley protesting against low wholesale milk prices in 2005. Photograph: Alamy

Milk has hit the news again as farmers complain about the low price they get. Milk is a classic example of how the ‘food industry’ has commoditised a product and allowed middle men and retailers to take the lions share of the retail price.

Marketing is now king, how else could milk be cheaper than water in some shops!

Unfortunately the milk industry is failing farmers, and consumers. Failing to give farmers a fair price and failing to give consumers a quality product and the story behind that product. Some kids don’t know that milk comes from cows.

Hook & Son Raw Milk

Hook & Son Raw Milk

When I say quality, yes, milk is safe, consistent, nicely packaged and available everywhere. But what a shame, that the number of UK dairy farmers has shrunk from 22,000 in 1990 to around 11,000, that all the milk from all the herds is mixed together, whether Jersey, free range, or intensive, and that all milk is pasteurised ruining its natural qualities.

When pasteurised milk goes off it is rancid, when raw milk goes off it can be made in to yoghurt or cheese. For more on this click here. To buy raw milk online click here.

What a shame that very few of us have a local dairy and can’t buy local milk and especially ‘raw’ un-pasteurised milk. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every region or local area had its own milk. ‘Bedfordshire grass fed Jersey milk’, ‘Sussex Downs wild meadow Freisan raw Milk’ or even better local unbranded milk with the local farmer supplying everyone in a 10 mile radius.

Happy cows eating a natural feed

This could happen! Some farmers have already taken this bold step, despite heavy government regulations against selling raw milk.

What we need is many more farmers following suit, government help and, we the consumer, buying local milk when it becomes available.

With the right government help, (perhaps subsidies on automatic milking machines, better for farmers and cows) and enough consumers buying straight away, to reduce marketing costs and achieve economies of scales, local milk should be competitively priced, with all the money going back to the local farmer and community.

Intensive dairy farm

We consumers, with the help of lobbying organisations like the WSPA and Friends of the Earth, stopped the Nocton intensive dairy and can change the food industry by simply, and quickly, changing our shopping habits when a better local food or milk option comes along.

You can already switch to local food by using our local food map, and register for our post code specific newsletter to be kept informed on local food news in your area by clicking here.

Exciting times, we can make it happen.

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