From today (Wednesday 15th December) Free Range Dairy Farmers Milk will be delisted from Asda stores across the UK.
This wonderful milk, produced by a small group of farmers in Gloucestershire, was first stocked in stores in March 2017, after I was given the opportunity to promote the concept of free range milk on the Channel 4 programme Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, in January of that year. Exposure to the launch of the very first free range milk to be stocked in a major supermarket was also given by BBC Breakfast on the day it went into over 300 Asda outlets.
The awareness of our cause created by Jamie Oliver & Jimmy Doherty and the launch of Free Range Dairy Farmers Milk in Asda, provided a major breakthrough for our small social enterprise. The Free Range Dairy Network CIC was established by myself and fellow director Carol Lever in July 2014, with a mission to build a better future for farmers cows and consumers.
The Pasture Promise logo on the milk gives people the chance to make a better choice about the kind of farms their milk comes from. The independently audited scheme behind the label, rewards dairy farmers for a commitment to giving their cows the freedom to graze for a minimum of 180 days a year. So along with its great taste Free Range Dairy Farmers Milk offers a fair deal for farmers and a fair deal for cows too.
It has always been a difficult job persuading people to pay more for milk. Particularly when the supermarkets where most of us shop use it as a ‘loss leader’; cutting their margin on milk to keep prices low and attract more people into their stores. So I am grateful to Asda for seizing the initiative to offer their customers a better milk choice and paying a premium to the farmers that produce it.
I have loved reading all of the amazing customer reviews of the product on the Asda website, where the unhomogenised Whole Free Range Dairy Farmers Milk has received so many 5 star reviews and wonderful comments about its taste. Here are just a few:
“This is by far the most creamy and tasty milk I ever had ”
“Honestly I’m sad when it’s out of stock! It’s so good and fresh and this layer of cream separation on the top speak for itself "
“I can’t believe I’m reviewing milk! Lol..but here we go...This is the ONLY milk I buy. It tastes so creamy. Since it’s the only milk my family and I like .. I tend to do the rest if my shopping in Asda because of it ”
I’m told the milk is being withdrawn from all Asda stores as a part of its plans to cut the product lines it stocks by 40%, announced in April 2021 ahead of the takeover by the Issa brothers. In other words, Free Range Dairy Farmers Milk is a victim of the brutal competition between major retailers to win more of our grocery spend. Nothing to do with falling sales or people falling out of love with the product.
It is just this kind of scenario that drives me to connect farmers directly with the people who actually eat the food they produce. Having taken my own personal journey along the grocery supply chain, through the processors, the wholesalers and on to the retailers and the consumers themselves, I have become acutely aware of just how disconnected and powerless farmers are and that needs to change. That’s why this blog is appearing on the pages of the Produce & Provide website.
Food security, self-sufficiency and provenance are terms that are alien to most who simply shop to feed themselves and their families and price is understandably the biggest driver of choice for many. But, in order to ensure we have sufficient food to eat week in, week out, we need farmers!
Farmers are worthy of more than the unfair treatment they receive from those above them in the supply chain. Without farmers there is no food. We need to promote the farmers who feed us; we need to put them at the very heart of our food system, if we are all to enjoy secure supplies of healthy and affordable food from sustainable farms.
So, I’m not going to rant about the all-powerful supermarkets. Instead, I am going to try and help others avoid going through the demoralising ups and downs that so many producers have had to endure. I want Produce & Provide to empower farmers to take back ownership of the food the produce, connect with people who truly value what they do and sell as directly and locally as they can.
I am no longer involved in the running of the Free Range Dairy Network CIC but I want wish Carol and everyone involved in producing, promoting and selling Pasture Promise free range milk the very best of luck in 2022. You know you have an amazing product and your mission is still as relevant today as it always has been.