Can Free Range producers get more Money for their Milk?

Can Free Range producers get more Money for their Milk?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The directors of Free Range Dairy, Neil Darwent and Carol Lever, are currently touring the Southwest with a series of meetings aimed at attracting farmers to their cause. They propose introducing an identifiable label for milk produced by cows that graze and have developed a set of criteria that farmers wishing to use the ‘Pasture Promise’ brand would have to meet. They believe that a pasture-fed dairy system is better for farmers, better for cows and better for consumers and therefore should command a premium price tag that we’re not currently seeing. Research that they commissioned looking into consumer preferences also shows that most shoppers think that cows should have freedom to graze (see image).

At a time when all corners of the industry are heralding a “dairy crisis” (prices at their lowest since 2007) this is a pretty positive thought; more money for milk produced through the most efficient way we have of realising value from grass – grazing. But how realistic is the proposition given the supply chains that we have, the power of the international market to depress prices and the pressure on personal budgets of end-users? These were among some of the questions discussed at a recent Free Range Dairy meeting held at Duchy College, Cornwall.

A drop in the ocean

Question from the audience: Given that a tanker collects milk from various farms, how easy is it going to be to make sure that free range milk doesn’t get mixed with milk produced from other systems?

Answer from Free Range Dairy: The free range model actually covers how most dairy farmers in the U.K. operate. It’s not just about extended grazing systems or organic, but includes the many traditional, seasonal grazing dairy farmers out there. In that respect there could easily be enough free range branded producers in an area to full many tankers. That’s why we need a critical-mass of farmers to join us in order to make it happen.

Q: Why do you think supermarkets are going to want to stock the free range brand when they have benefited from low milk prices?

A: Most milk is purchased in supermarkets, but we don’t believe that cheap milk gets more people into supermarkets. In fact a number of recent reports show that people’s shopping habits are changing, with a swing away from supermarkets to convince stores and farm shops.

What people say and what people do

Q: Even though consumers say they support an idea they we know that this doesn’t always translate into sales, especially when cheaper alternatives are available. How are you going to promote the value of free range milk to the discerning consumer?

A: Consumer research that we undertook with funding from RABDF suggested that the majority of shoppers would pay more for milk differentiated as Free Range. What’s more, it showed that a 50% increase would be considered acceptable by those that indicated they would buy it, e.g. making 4 pints £1.50, rather than the current low of £1.00. Of course we know that what people say and what they do doesn’t always tally. For instance, more people say they buy free range eggs than actually do. Nevertheless, the free range egg market is still going strong, supported by consumers’ faith in a product that’s worth the difference. Hence we know that we have to get messages across about why ‘Pasture Promise’ milk is different. To achieve this we intend to work with the industry to develop ways of demonstrating nutritional, sustainability and animal-wellbeing benefits offered by the free range dairy approach.

The consumer research conducted by Free Range dairy is based on a sample of circa 400 respondents.

Image courtesy of Free Range Dairy.

This summary was produced by Charlotte Evans after attending the Free Range Dairy Meeting at Duchy College, Cornwall. The event stimulated a lot of discussion between attendees and the Free Range Dairy representatives. Much more information about the initiative is available on their website:

You can also find out more by attending one of the forthcoming Free Range Dairy meetings:

Tuesday 27th Jan           11.00am - 2.00pm          The Whitminster Inn, Bristol Road, Whitminster, Gloucester GL2 7NY

Tuesday 27th Jan           7.30pm – 9.30pm         The Pipers Inn, Ashcott, nr Street, Somerset TA7 9QL

Wednesday 28th Jan      11.00am – 2.00pm         The George Albert Hotel, Wardon Hill, Evershot, Dorset DT2 9PW

Tuesday 10th Feb           7.30pm – 9.30pm         The Bluebell Inn, Buxton Road, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1NH

Wednesday 11th Feb      11.00am – 2.00pm         The Four Crosses, Holyhead Road, Bicton, Shrewsbury SY3 8EF



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