I love MILK! It is absolutely gorgeous and good for you. I used to consume gallons of the stuff! That is up until I went to university and I had to start paying for it myself. My 4 bowls of cereal a day habit had to die. I am much more sensible with my milk consumption these days but that is only because I don’t have the money to buy as much as I could/would drink. Here lies the dilemma:
I want MILK! + I have little money = Buying Cheap MILK!!!!!!!
‘What’s the problem?’ I hear you say??????
What’s The Problem?
For the most part, cheap milk nowadays means that somewhere a British dairy farmer is going out of business. In just over 15 years British dairy farms have declined from 28,000 to just over 11,000 last year, the majority of those that disappeared were family-run farms with small herds*. The laws of supply and demand would tell you that since there are fewer farmers, milk would become scarcer and therefore more expensive, leaving farmers with a higher wage. However this is not the case and dairy farmers have been paid less and less per pint of milk in recent years. The National Farmers Union (NFU) estimates that it cost their farmers 29p-30p to produce a pint of milk, many farmers are being paid 27p and farmers were in uproar last month when this was set to drop to 25p for many producers. You do the maths.
Who’s to Blame?
The supermarkets who retail the majority of UK milk have taken an increasingly bigger share of the profits in recent years from a 10% margin in 1995 to around 35% today.
The processors of milk, the middle men, are reducing the pay of farmers to keep their own margins of profit up as they are squeezed by the supermarkets. They reduce their price to gain supermarket contracts. The three biggest processors; Arla, Muller Wiseman and Dairy Crest were in the news after threatening to cut the price from 27p to 25p last month.
Grain prices have risen dramatically in the last few years, it is vital to feed cattle and so this has added an extra 4p to production costs.
The consumer wants milk at cheap prices as its an everyday essential, supermarkets have kept prices down to bring in customers.
What’s the solution?
Government forces processors and supermarkets to pay a minimum price for a pint to their farmers.
Supermarkets and processors keep milk prices for their customers low by taking a small margin of profit.
Farmers cut out the middle men and sell directly to the consumer.
Consumers think and drink in a different way.
What can I do?
Buying organic generally provides farmers with a better wage, the downside is its often a lot more expensive for the consummer.
Buy from supermarkets that insure a fair price for farmers
Buy from smaller retailers who know their farmers personally and don’t have the buying power of big stores.
Buy direct from the farmer. Since many are being forced out of a wage, many dairy farmers are looking to processing and selling their milk themselves.
Buy better quality, fairly priced milk and drink less.
July saw the biggest protests by dairy farmers since 2005. They marched in protest, boycotted and blockaded supermarkets and threw away milk in demonstration against their loss of livelihoods and the threats of price cuts. This caused a huge backlash against supermarkets and the processors with the government stepping in with immediate debate to remedy the situation. The three main processors have since made a u-turn on the price drop and supermarkets have aligned their prices for now. A success that will only continue with added pressure.
What are your thoughts on the matter of milk?