The issue of milk prices is being hotly debated throughout the dairy industry and the media. Reports tell us that UK farmers are suffering as retailers threaten to cut the amount they pay processors and farmers for their milk. While Compassion doesn't claim to be an expert in the area of milk prices, we do care about the welfare implications such issues may have upon the industry's most important asset - the cows.
This morning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, John Humphreys suggested "If in the end, the only way to produce reasonably priced milk is to have mega dairies well, maybe that's the way we've got to go?"
He didn't mean it, he was simply playing devil's advocate, but his words sadly echo the thoughts of many. Thankfully, we were pleased to hear that Peter Kendall of the National Farmers' Union also wants to avoid going this way and wishes to maintain smaller, local farms across the country.
Compassion in World Farming does not think that mega dairies are a solution to the ever-increasing demand for milk products. Mega dairies, such as those used across Europe and the US that house thousands upon thousands of cows, kept indoors year round in zero-grazing systems and offering very little in the way of welfare of the cows, is not a path we want to see British farming take.
Compassion's Food Business Engagement
Compassion's Food Business team works with all the major retailers, as well as processors advising them on how to ensure higher farm animal welfare throughout their supply chain and awarding those companies making commitments to improve animal welfare.
One such award is the Good Dairy Award, launched last year. Our Good Dairy Award winners, among them Waitrose, ASDA, OMSCo and Ben & Jerry's, have proven that it is possible to raise cows to high welfare standards and maintain a healthy, profitable business.
On top of that, producers and consumers alike believe that dairy products made from the milk of happy and healthy cows tastes better. The commitments of our Good Dairy Award winners demonstrate that we don't need to go down the path of the mega dairy.