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Free-range fun down on the farm!

Published in The Vegetarian magazine - Summer/Autumn 2017


family in field
On Tuesday 06 June, an event to promote free-range dairy took place at a dairy farm in Gloucestershire. The event, which was hosted by the community interest company, the Free Range Dairy Network, aimed to give visitors the chance to meet the cows and farmers who produce free-range milk.

With increasing pressure to meet demand and keep milk prices lower, farmers are often driven to develop large-scale, intensive systems. This is a cause for concern for many vegetarians.Unfortunately, choosing free-range alternatives is not always as simple as you might imagine. Consumers oftenhaving no way of knowing where theirm milk really comes from, as milk collected from small farms, where cows graze in fields, may be mixed with that from large units where cows never go outside.

That’s why Free Range Dairy Network directors, Neil Darwent and Carol Lever, are working to promote the true value of traditional, pasture-based farms and encourage labelling of the farming system behind our milk. Free Range Dairy Network works with farmers and independent dairy companies around the country to give consumers a more informed choice about where their milk comes from.

Earlier this summer, visitors to Barhouse Farm in Gloucestershire got a chance to wander among the 200 free-range cows that live on the farm, and enjoy the freedom of the fields with them. They also had the chance to hear host farmer, Jerry, talk about his commitment to keeping his cows in fields.

While free-range milk comes from a very simple farming system, it would be wrong to assume that this makes for an easy life for the producer, which was apparent as Jerry explained the daily routines associated with ensuring the highest quality care of the cows and the land.

Talking about the event, Neil Darwent from the Free Range Dairy Network said: "One of the key objectives of the Free Range Dairy Network is to forge closer links between farmers and consumers, to promote a better understanding of the kind of life afforded to cows and the value that traditional dairy farms deliver for us and our countryside. So, there is no better place to do this than out in the fields amongst the cows."

It is now easier for many people to choose free-range milk, thanks to the Free Range Dairy Network's Pasture Promise logo which gives a clear assurance that the milk comes from cows that are free to roam in fields for at least half the year.

Jerry and other farmers producing Pasture Promise free range milk have to adhere to a strict set of standards and are assessed by a recognised certification body. In return, they are rewarded for their commitment to keeping cows in fields, with a premium for their milk.

Neil continued: "Many people have become disconnected with the source of their food and more emphasis is sometimes placed on convenience and price than its true value. By inviting customers to visit dairy farms, the Free Range Dairy Network is allowing people to literally get back to the grass roots of their milk. It is a fact that not all milk is the same and by giving people a choice about the milk they buy, we can secure a fair deal for farmers and cows."

Pasture Promise free-range milk is now available in over 360 Asda stores, 40 Mid Counties Coop stores, 24 Booths stores and, at the time of writing, is expected to be stocked in Morrisons stores in the very near future.



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