The bitter taste of cheap food

Was it you? Did you go into your local supermarket and demand cheap milk? No. Well, who was it then? Who said it was okay for retailers and processors to pay dairy farmers less for their milk than it actually cost to produce?

You see the supermarkets tell us that they only stock what the consumer wants. So, if I’ve got this right people having been going into the supermarkets and saying the following:

  • I don’t care what is in my milk.
  • I don’t care what kind of life the cows that produce my milk have.
  • I am happy to see dairy cows vanish form the British landscape.
  • I am happy to get my milk and dairy products from distant shores with no knowledge of how it was produced.
  • All I care is that the price is low

Now whoever you are, it’s time you owned up. Because, you see, the reality is there is really no such thing as cheap milk. Somewhere, somebody pays the real price and, right now, it’s the farmers and their cows. The milk buyer Wisemans (now owned by those Muller people who make those lovely yoghurts) have just cut the price they pay to farmers by two pence a litre. Ouch! That will hurt their suppliers. But wait, there’s more – from August the 1st they propose to cut the milk price by a further 1.7 pence a litre. But, Wisemans are the only ones to have ‘declared their hand’ for August until now and you can bet your bottom dollar others will soon follow in their wake.

A farmer producing 1 million litres of milk a year stands to lose £37,000 of income following the two price cuts I mentioned above – quite a lot by anyone’s standards. Especially when you consider that many will find themselves on a milk price of less than 25 pence a litre this summer, whilst costs of production are widely quoted in excess of 30 pence.

But what’s that I hear you say? Sainsburys have just increased the price they pay to farmers by 0.26 pence a litre to something over 30 pence. Yes, you’re right, around 324 lucky farmers are getting a price that covers their production.  You see, these guys supply Sainsburys with their liquid milk – a line fiercely defended by large retailers because it’s a basic staple that get customers through the door to buy other things. But ask them what milk price the farmers who supply milk for their cheese, cream, butter and yoghurts are getting and I think you’ll find it’s substantially less.

My apologies if this sounds like a whining farmer. I’m not begging anyone to bail out poor, down-trodden milk producers. But, what I am asking is that you take time to understand why we and our cows are worth more. That’s what Free Range Dairy is all about. So please take a look at the website if you haven’t done already and start asking questions about where your milk comes from.

Finally, you – yes you the, one who asked for cheap milk – our cows are very disappointed in you.

 

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