Issues in our milk and dairy industry have been covered by this blog for some time. I am now dismayed to read an article by Daisy Buchanan who writes about recent growth in nut and plant-based milks amongst young people. These cost five times as much as dairy milk. She notes that ‘46% of 16- to 24-year-olds now believe they are allergic to cow’s milk compared to 8% of people aged over 75.’ But concludes that this ‘milk-free trend isn’t making us healthier or happier.’ (A 200ml glass of milk gives calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12). I also ask what does this do to our struggling dairy industry?
Arla foods launched a new initiative with supermarket chain Asda on 12 July. This gives shoppers the opportunity to pay an extra 25 pence on a four-pint carton of both semi-skimmed and full fat milk. The extra 25p will be returned directly to the farmers in the corresponding co-operative grouping. The initiative is based on research that said 63% of shoppers asked, would be happy to pay more for milk if they knew the extra cost would be returned to farmers in this way.
However, as previously reported on this blog, and more recently in the local press:
“Milk prices have been at unsustainably low prices for several months now, leaving the prices paid to farmers by processors well below the cost of production.
Official Government figures show that the average farm gate milk price in May was 20.44p, which represented a fall of 1.13p or 5.3 per cent on the previous month, and which is some 10p below the 30p per litre level which is considered to be the break-even point for dairy farmers.”
In these challenging times, if feedback from Asda’s customers suggests that they are prepared to pay more, why should the additional cost of milk be a matter of choice by the customer, with no additional burden carried by the supermarket? If all Asda customers pay more for their milk, this would provide far more support for hard-pressed dairy farmers and pave the way for other supermarkets to follow their lead; this really would make this a ‘sustainable business’ initiative by Asda.
BBC radio 4’s Farming Today focused on organic farming – from Scottish whiskey to organic milk. The programme was broadcast from Pim Hill Farm in Shropshire – established as organic (although referred to as ‘muck and magic’) back in 1949. It is worth a listen – especially on the dilemmas of non-organic feed for dairy herds – and on the ups and downs of converting to organic, taste and trends
You can hear the programme here
This blog has been discussing the plight of UK dairy farmers (see posts on 16 and 31 January 2015) and Dutch dairy farmers in LTO Noord decided to raise their profile by displaying large posters (2m x 1m) on their farms – this one is on a farm gate in Otterlo – where the cows say: ‘We go out again!’ The aim is to show the important contribution that farmers make to the countryside – and make the link between friendly cows and milk! Nearly a thousand banners were ordered by farmers back in the spring and this one is certainly doing a good job of bringing attention to a struggling industry.