Asda to become the first major UK retailer to sell 'free-range milk'

The milk will carry a ‘Pasture Promos’ logo, which guarantees that it comes from cows grazed for at least six months and shows that farmers were offered a fair price for the produce

Zlata Rodionova
Tuesday 28 February 2017 10:12
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Most dairy farmers graze their cows for part of the year, but  there are currently no guidelines set by the industry specifying  the number of days and nights a cow should be kept outdoors.
Most dairy farmers graze their cows for part of the year, but there are currently no guidelines set by the industry specifying the number of days and nights a cow should be kept outdoors.

Asda is set to become the first major UK retailer to sell free-range dairy milk, in response to growing demand for organic products.

The supermarket chain will start selling the milk on Wednesday. It will carry a ‘Pasture Promos’ logo, which guarantees that it comes from cows grazed for at least six months and shows that farmers were offered a fair price for the produce.

Asda said it has identified stores in its chain where there is a high level of interest in organic products and that it will initially put 70,000 litres of its ‘Free Range Dairy Farmer’s Milk’ on shelves every week in 109 stores.

Both semi-skimmed and whole milk varieties will be sold in one and two litre bottles, costing 90p and £1.50 respectively for the two different sizes.

Most dairy farmers graze their cows for part of the year, but there are currently no guidelines set by the industry specifying the number of days and nights a cow should be kept outdoors.

In 2015, dairy farmers said they faced a crisis due to the continuing fall in the price of milk. Farm gate prices fell 25 per cent in a year to the lowest in five years, making the cost of production more expensive than the milk itself.

Plummeting milk price last year prompted a rise of so-called indoor “mega-dairies” in the UK, each housing up to 2,000 cows without free access to pastures, the Independent revealed last year. Supporters of the method argued that it offers high standards of welfare and is one of the few ways in which left open to British dairy farmers can to earn a living by using a method which vastly increases - by up to 50 per cent - the yield of cows kept indoors.

But dairy farmers at the time accused UK retailers including Morrisons and Asda, of using milk as a weapon in a price war with discounters like Aldi and Lidl. The National Farmers' Union (NFU) at that time argued that a supermarket price war had devalued the product in the eyes of the public, "purely to get customers through the door".

Jenny Cannon, senior category director for milk at Asda, said on Tuesday that the supermarket is launching the free-range milk because it’s “the right thing to do for our customers”.

“We want to provide ranges for our customers that offer them great price, quality and choice. […] We will be monitoring demand for the milk in all stores and will work closely with the Free Range Dairy Network to make sure the milk is available to as many customers as possible,” Ms Cannon said.

Neil Darwent, who set up the Free Range Dairy Network, a company that aims to promote the value of pasture based milk production on British dairy farms, added: “We hope that by customers being offered an active choice as to the kind of farming system they want to support, we will be able to grow the Free Range Dairy Network and recruit more dairy farmers who’ll be able to benefit from this simple farming method.”

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