Milk matters

19 Jul
milk matters/zskdorset

Bottoms up

The other weekend on the radio show I had an irate local dairy farmer on the phone. British supermarkets are refusing to pay a fair price for milk, he said, and if they carry on we will dump the milk we produce and there won’t be any on the shelves anymore.

“Is that a threat?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied.

Dorset’s dairy farmers, he said, are desperate. Milk costs 29p per litre to produce. The business of looking after 200+ hungry cattle is obviously not cheap.

The supermarkets however are only prepared to pay 27p. There are about 2.5 pints in a litre and a pint of milk in my local supermarket is about 70p. So the dairy farmers are, to say the very least, feeling pretty hard done by. If you want to even dip a toe in that pool of rage, try looking at the hashtag “sosdairy” on Twitter.

I am not renowned for my mathematical prowess but it certainly does seem that something isn’t quite adding up there.

Can you imagine a world without milk? I started writing this thinking I could probably live without it. Until I remembered my morning muesli, the 6 cups of tea I get through in a day, the coffee shop lattes and of course, the three bottles of milk my toddler hoovers up between meals. My house is full of milk. We have both skimmed and whole milk in the fridge and a box of infant formula also on the go. And – oh my God. I forgot about chocolate.

What if milk became a luxury item, sandwiched on the top shelves between the Moet and the Bollinger and with one of those infuriating security tabs over the lid? The VIP bars would serve semi-skimmed instead of Crystal on tap, and milk would be a Friday night treat after a long day in the office.

I’m not a medic but I imagine it wouldn’t be particularly great scenario for public health (although admittedly hangovers would become a thing of the past).

A thyroid specialist told me recently that there is already a problem with iodine deficiency here in the UK, caused by people not drinking enough milk. As an adult you can kind of cope with a low level but it is crucial to the development of babies’ brains – meaning mothers should keep drinking the white stuff. If we have that problem already how much worse would things be if milk was priced out of the weekly shop?

The number of dairy farmers in Dorset alone has already practically halved since 1999. It’s not an easy life – -the farmer on my show had been up since 4am tending to his herd, along with his son. He said farming was in their blood but he was no longer sure it was the best career path for his children. We all have to eat, after all.

Black coffee, anyone?

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One Response to “Milk matters”

  1. Brian July 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Interestingly I just read the article regarding Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnsely thinygull. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18898830. I have mixed feelings over it, on one hand yes, I agree, and your right, everything costs money (such as the rearing or cattle to produce Milk) which, if those prices increase, has a knock on effect. but I must admit when I read the bbc article I couldn’t help but think “oh yeah, it’s alright for the rich chefs to bang on about boycotting shops for not charging ENOUGH” Times are hard etc etc. Wish I had an answer but untill such times as the cost of living evens out with everything else… I’ll be buying my milk, as with everything else, where it’s the cheapest. We all have to eat, after all.

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