Why we need to battle to save British Milk

Friday 16 January, 2015    


  • How a personal vice can translate into something much more serious

  • Discover how you can save British Milk

  • Supermarkets and politicians are gutless and self-serving – no surprises there then!


It’s a vice I have admitted to before, but it never hurts to re-state a guilty pleasure.

There is nothing I like more on a Sunday morning than hiding away in my den with the Archers omnibus on the radio, slurping on a pot of fresh brewed coffee and quietly leafing through the papers.

‘Dum de dum de dum de dummm...

Dum de dum de dee deeee...

Dum de dum de dum de dummm...

Dum de tiddle de deeee!’

The sound track to a sensible morning, and usually a sign to the rest of the family that my incendiary nature is being salved by the stories of everyday country gentlefolk; which is why they indulge my little weakness.

One of the story lines which has kept me glued to the series has been about the creation of a so called 'super dairy' by arch businessman farmer Brian Aldridge and his pantomime villain henchmen from Borsetshire Land.

It’s been gripping stuff where traditional dairy farmers in the parish have been attacking this multi-million pound development that would see the cows permanently penned in stalls and fed on manufactured rations, rather than allowed to graze in sunny fields.

All of which has seen some glorious stand-offs in true Archers style between the pro- and anti- lobbies over a pint at the Bull Inn in the village.

If you share my passion no doubt you know what I’m talking about, but of course there may be a few of you wondering what on earth this is all leading to...

...well firstly, shame on you for wasting your Sunday mornings doing anything other than getting your Archers fix... and secondly, this fictional storyline underpins something much darker and very real for our food, countryside and the welfare of us all.

You are now witnessing the start of the decline of one of our national treasures – the British dairy farm is rapidly going into extinction, with the supermarkets holding the smoking gun.

But, as always, they deny any responsibility for the carnage they are creating in the very fabric of our countryside.

Let me explain what this is all about.

Battling for the soul of British milk

In 1995 there were over 35,000 dairy farms in the UK accounting for 3.2 million cows; by 2010 the number of farms had dropped to under 16,000 and had fewer than 1.8 million cows.

This year we are likely to see the number of farms drop below 10,000 – with many of these existing on incomes that require the farmers to claim tax credits to be able to feed their families.

This is a shocking state of affairs and directly reflects how huge buying groups have dominated the way milk is sold from the farm gate, meaning that the average price a farm receives for a pint of milk is about 7p less than it costs to produce.

Bizarrely the supermarkets then think it makes sense to sell this wholesome and delicious natural product for a loss to them of 5p a pint to entice us through their hallowed portals in the hope we buy more expensive and profitable lines whilst we are there.

Milk is now cheaper to buy than bottled water, according to a recent survey by The Grocer magazine which reports that the major supermarkets have slashed prices in an all out price war.

What they don’t report is that to do this they have squeezed the prices they pay their suppliers and this has decimated prices at the farm gate...

...and the situation got even worse this week when one of the major milk buying groups (First Milk) told over 1,000 farmers that they would not be receiving any money for two weeks, and the amount they got would be less than they were expecting as prices had been lowered.

Rob Harrison who heads the National Farmers Union’s dairy board sounded a dire warning when he said, “It looks like this is going to be the worst crisis the dairy industry has ever seen. Retailers are fighting over market share and they are driving farmers out of business. If they don’t support us there will be very few dairy farmers left in this country in six months’ time.”

Just imagine the British countryside without herds of cows in the fields, and our milk either being imported from as far away as New Zealand, or produced in massive factory units like those being planned in The Archers plot line.

I for one would be in despair.

What is to be done?

Since the Milk Marketing Board was disbanded by an arrogant and short-sighted government in 1984 the price our farmers receive for their produce has been at the whim of the ‘free-market’.

This means that if they over supply then the price is cut, but if they under supply, or try to charge a fair price, then the buyers simply load up on imported milk and cheese.

Throwing any form of price support or supply regulation out of the window for the farmers has meant that we have effectively lost the control of home produced food; food that we can attest for the quality, freshness and standards of animal welfare involved in its production.

One small farmer called Steve Hook has documented his plight and produced a DVD entitled ‘The Moo Man’ which highlights just how unfair the situation is for family producers and the way any small producer is now being treated.

He offers a solution to the problems as follows:

“I would get the head of DEFRA and all the supermarket chiefs around a table and bang their heads together and tell them that the price of milk has to go up in the shops. These price wars are unsustainable."

“Our problem is that the supermarkets are powerful and the shareholders and politicians have no balls.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

We all like a bargain, but if we know that by paying silly prices for our milk we are putting livelihoods at risk are we doing ourselves a favour in the long run?

I don’t think so, and I hope you agree – so boycott the supermarkets, get to know your local milkman again or buy direct from the farm gate through specialist providers like Abel & Cole and Riverford (who also do rather nice veggie boxes too!).

Strike back for a very British way of life – if we allow big business to dictate how our countryside looks we will lose more than just a few cows in the fields. 

Yours, as always







GLL Header.jpg

Discover natural remedies, pain relief breakthroughs and weight loss secrets for FREE.

Enter your email address to join The Good Life Letter now

First Name
Last Name
Email Address
latest health breakthroughs
all past letters
past letters by subject
Good Life Shop