Local business Stephenson’s Dairy are the first dairy company in the UK to offer Free Range Milk under the Pasture Promise label.
Most people presume all cows live outside, roaming romantically on lush green pastures. This is far from the truth. The pressure on production and price has moved the dairy industry to become a more intensive factory farmed industry, where cows never go outside and are typically fed maize, wheat, rape seed & a GM soya based diet (Better known as TMR – total mixed rations)
The consolidation of milk processing into the hands of one or two large players means that there is little opportunity to segregate milk from different farming systems. This means that milk is now widely regarded as a ‘white water’ commodity with little value. Stephenson’s Dairy has been delivering fresh milk to customers in Lancashire for over 20 years and we have established a valuable reputation for quality and service.
There are challenges to offering milk of proven provenance to customers. That is why, we began to explore opportunities to provide the people we serve with milk from the kind of farms they would want to buy from.
The North West has a great climate for growing grass. Cows are inquisitive and social creatures. They were born to forage and graze. Allowing them the freedom of our fields lets them express their natural behaviour and enjoy the diet ruminants were designed to eat.
The Pasture Promise label was registered to help consumers make a more informed choice about the milk they buy. We have spent a great deal of time and energy building up a strong collaboration of people to work with who share the same pioneering ideas about the concept of free range milk. We began to explore working with local dairy farmers and processors to provide a different product for the people we serve. We are the first dairy company to offer Free Range Milk under the Pasture Promise label in the UK. We are leading the way in promoting ethical milk that tastes great and performs well for our businesses.
Free Range milk is a totally new concept that sits between standard and organic milk and is able to offer an ethical milk but at an affordable price. In early May 2015, we became the first dairy wholesaler in the UK to adopt the Pasture Promise label across our whole business. Through discussion and negotiations with the processor we are able to provide a dedicated collection from the farms and process Free Range Milk away from other lines; we are now able to guarantee provenance and traceability of free range milk. Free Range milk is accredited to STS Excellence in Food Safety standards. In return for a commitment to grazing their cows for a minimum of 180 days & nights a year, we pass a direct premium back to the farmers.
By defining the value in milk at the farm gate, we are able to offer milk from small, sustainable dairy farms that the British public want to support. There is growing demand for an ethical and affordable choice in milk. We are pleased to be pioneering a different approach to the ruthless competition for cheap milk that is threatening the future of the British dairy industry. Innovation in the dairy industry, so far, has largely been about taking something out of milk or adding something to it to try and make milk new and exciting. By recognising the value of our milk by defining grazing standards, utilisation of pasture and promoting a low impact sustainable farming system, we are adding much needed value to the milk at the farm gate and winning the hearts and minds of our customers.
We are also winning growing recognition across our customers from doorstep deliveries to award winning artisan coffee roasters and the free range milk is adding value to their businesses. Not only are our customers enjoying free range milks great taste, but more importantly enjoying the fact that the milk is providing local farmers with a sustainable future. Knowing where the milk comes from is becoming increasingly important as we are more aware of sustainability and food origins. Increasing evidence is emerging to show that milk produced from cows that graze, compared to cows fed diets high in grain, is lower in saturated fats and contains more healthy fats like Omega 3.
The more grass a cow eats the better the milk. As the dairy crisis continues we are proud to be leading a real movement for change in a dairy industry that offers little opportunity for new players to enter the market and make a difference to small, family dairy farms that the British public want to support and at the same time adding value to our humble daily pinta. Free range milk is shifting the focus from volume to value. We want to leave the industry better than we found it, making sure that we play our part as custodians for future generations.