Myself and no doubt most of us might think that the milk we buy comes from cows that are grass fed, out in fields and coming in twice a day to be milked. WRONG!! After seeing a news article a few months ago, I was actually shocked to see that the majority of our milk is produced by intensively farmed cows (this link was not the actual article but it makes interesting reading) kept inside in cramped conditions in barns and never seeing a green field and not a blade of grass is consumed.
I do buy my milk from Tesco and looked at the label on their milk and apart from saying that they pay a fair price to their farmers and the cows are from Higher Welfare Farms, nowhere does it state how the milk is produced. I decided to contact Tesco by letter to ask why milk labelling should be any different to the labelling of eggs and fresh meat, and why it does not state whether their milk is from intensively farmed cattle or if they do actually have any milk that is from grass fed cows. As a consumer I want to know exactly what I am buying, so that I can have a choice whether I buy milk from cows kept inside in barns or grass fed cows. After all we all have a choice as to whether we buy eggs from caged birds or free range birds so why should milk be any different.
I did receive a letter from Tesco which stated that they are committed to high animal welfare, and some farmers did graze their cows in the summer and housing during the winter, but some did keep their cows indoors all year. It also went into other details including audits which quite frankly I am not interested in, but obviously the actual farmers were their priority. The letter also stated that they have a Livestock Code of Practice for dairy cows which focuses on welfare issues which I am sure is fine, but this does not take into account the fact that cows should be outside grazing in fresh air and space. It also said that grazing on their own does not necessarily lead to higher welfare. I think you would have to ask the cows’ opinion on that – cramped inside or out in a field – no contest!!!
In my local Tesco store and I presume it would be the same in all Tesco stores, there is a large freize above the whole of the milk shelves stating Tesco only buy milk from British farmers with a beautiful picture of cows grazing in a field, how misleading, as clearly this is not the case. Where is the true picture of the dairy cows confined in a barn??
However the answer I was really looking for, was are they going to change the labelling on their milk to state whether the contents were produced by intensively farmed cows or grass fed cows. So another letter was sent to them hoping for an answer and to suggest that perhaps they could be the first Supermarket to label their milk with the relative information. I did receive a phone call to discuss this 2nd letter, as another letter would not be sent as their first letter had covered everything, which it hadn’t done. The gentleman I spoke to did say that labelling would not change and I was told labelling and intensive farming would not change. I did ask him again to answer another question and that was did Tesco actually sell any milk that was produced by grass fed only cows? He could not answer this point so by that omission I can only assume that they do not.
Not the result I was hoping for, but if enough people boycott Supermarket milk unless proper labelling is forthcoming it might make the supermarkets and indeed farmers sit up and think. Perhaps this is the reason why we have a milk surplus, too many cows kept inside (a lot cheaper and easier work), more milk production and nowhere for it to go. Surely this would reduce if we consumers had a choice and if like me would only buy milk from grass fed cows who enjoy their outside existence and do not mind paying more, as I do for free range eggs. These are big animals and should not have to endure confined living. It worked for chicken eggs, so why not cows.
I won’t go into other issues about cattle welfare as it is too upsetting, there are other sites that go into such detail which makes for upsetting reading and would probably put you off milk for life, so on the whole the majority of our cows are getting a raw deal. Lets see if we can make changes and force our supermarkets to start labelling their milk. We hear so much about the farmers, what about the welfare of the cows!!!
If like me you do read the label on your Tesco Milk do not bother trying to visit the website they list for further information, it does not even exist. Despite pointing it out in my letters and in the telephone call they have failed to address this fundamental deception!
Clear Labelling Needed On How Supermarket Milk Is Produced
PS Please let me know your view below…