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The price of milk (Times, Thursday 19 July).

by HughFW published on
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The price of milk | Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall | Jamie Oliver | The Times


It is shocking that many dairy farmers are to be paid less for their milk than it costs to produce it.

Dairy farming in this country is fast becoming unviable.

Milk is a brilliant food but we have lost all sight of its value. We pay more for bottled water than we do for milk - yet water bubbles out of the ground, while milk comes from livestock which need our care.

How mad is that?

Dairy farmers can't take industrial action. Their daily commitment to their herd makes it impossible.

How cynical of retailers to take advantage of this.

If the dairy industry expires, or becomes super-industrialised, it's not just thousands of family businesses that will go to the wall.

Our whole landscape is threatened.

All over Britain the patchwork of hedgerows and grass fields owes its existence to the traditional production of milk.

It's time supermarkets stopped using milk as a loss leader.

And if they won't take initiative, then perhaps consumers will consider moving their custom from those who offer milk at crazy knockdown prices to those who will commit to giving dairy farmers a fairer deal.

We're delighted to see the WI is already campaigning for such action, and we urge everyone who drinks milk (that's pretty much all of us, of course) to do the same.

River Cottage, Axminster, Devon.

Fifteen, Watergate Bay, Cornwall.

• This open letter appeared in The Times on Thursday 19 July. You can read the letter online here:

9 replies
Replied on

Here in Australia dairy farmers get paid less per litre than they did in 1950! we have 2 supermarket chains that have forced the price of 'milk' down to $1Aus. most of the 'milk' at supermarkets is not real milk anyway. its been pulled apart and bit put back and other things added.
we are very fortunate as we buy our milk and cream direct from the dairy in 2 litre returnable flagons for $4. Its a self-service system. Last year they dropped their milking herd to 20 cows (the farmer has another job as well) and now all the milk is sold locally and the tanker has no need to come.
the milk is real and unpasturised(not fit for human consumptio according to the goverment) Tastes great and the locals appreciate the quality and the fact it is available and that they can support a family.
In other areas of South Australia consumers are buying shares in cows to obtain quality milk and support farmers.
if everyone thought before purchasing then maybe the supermarkets would have to change.

Replied on

There is an HM Governement e-petition on the go "Dairy Farmers must be paid more for their milk" - will be debated in Parliament if 100,000 sign up. Better than nothing I suppose. What about Lidl and Aldi's? What price do they pay their farmers I wonder?

Replied on

There are two issues that I can see here. One is the power of the retailers who are buying below cost. Their contracts with the suppliers should be examined in detail and I think there should be at least a parliamentary enquiry into the way these contracts are framed. I am sure that there is some way in which they can be proved to be illegal or at least anticompetitive.

However there is another issue - and one with which Hugh may be uncomfortable. We consume entirely too much dairy. Perhaps we should also support moving to an integrated beef/veal/dairy farming industry using cattle like dexters, red devons and other combined dairy/meat breeds. (I know dexters are not the best example but...)

I consume about 50ml of milk a week and maybe 10gm of cheese. When you are older that 3 dairy products in bulk are not good for you as you don't produce enough of the enzymes to digest them. Let's have a smaller but better paid cattle farming community.

Replied on

Who advises HFW what to say,or does he open his mouth without thinking.?
All that dribble about the patchwork of hedges and grass fields is down to traditional milk production,traditional farming,but not down to dairying alone,them Small hedged field dairy herds have mainly long gone,he needs to get out of the city more.

Super markets dont sell all the milk produced in the UK
All farmers dont have contracts with supermarkets
Does he realise what percentage of overall UK production is sold through supermarkets?
Does he know which retailer supplies the Government bodies,hospitals,schools,prisons etc.etc
And what price they pay the retailer?

If he did realise some of these facts,he d also realise the supermarket sales of milk are not the biggest culprit to the lower price the farmer gets.

I m sure his school pal David will tell him who has the Government supply contracts.

Replied on

Hugh, Sounds like its time for another campaign, Fair Trade Milk,but which supermarket is going to support it?

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Hugh, Jamie,
Thank you, thank you from a dairy farmer, for making the effort. God knows if it will do any good, (I doubt it) but thanks for taking the time and making the effort.

Replied on

..... absolutely, if it is a fact that this is happening, then empower people to make the same choice as yourselves.

Act to change. It's about time larger retailers sold us what we want instead of what they want us to buy.

Replied on

Hugh & Jamie, I think you need to be explicit and name the offending Supermarkets as I believe that some of the larger ones actually work very well with their suppliers.

My understanding from listening to various debates on the radio is that it is Asda; Morrisons and the Co-Op who are imposing the less than cost of production on its suppliers.

Name and shame them!

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