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From the editor: People still love dairy, but the industry must stay on its toes

Amid the constant onslaught from militant vegans and anti-farming activists, it is sometimes easy to forget that the overwhelming majority of people in this country back British agriculture and happily consume its products.

This week’s special report into attitudes towards dairy shows how consumers, by and large, back British dairy farmers and are not put off by the negative messages the industry has to bat off on a daily basis.

 

Dairy continues to be the cornerstone of British diets, that much is clear.

 

The over-riding positivity of the survey, however, does not mean the dairy industry can rest on its laurels.

 

Of the 2,012 surveyed, 10 per cent are changing their consumption habits due to a range of factors, be they health, animal welfare concerns or simply the fact there is more choice on offer.

 

Also of interest is the fact only 2 per cent of those surveyed identify themselves as vegan.

 

The noise made by this fraternity on social media is completely out of kilter with their actual presence in society and, while it cannot be dismissed as a passing fad, it clearly does not resonate with most people, as the backlash to the EAT-Lancet report has shown.

 

For most people, the challenge is not about which ethically sourced almond nut they can buy, it is about greater things such as feeding their families or keeping a roof over their heads; maybe something the BBC should heed in its wider coverage of consumer trends.


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Yet dairy does face challenges and they are greatest among those between 18-24 years of age, with 51 of those surveyed claiming they were ditching dairy altogether.

 

This shows why dairying needs to be robust in its messaging about the benefits it offers and effective when conveying the high welfare standards we know underpin milk production.

 

Overall, the survey provides a welcome snapshot of consumer perception which would no doubt be mirrored across other agricultural sectors.

 

But the challenge is clear: as people’s tastes evolve and the range of choice widens, traditional British agriculture will have to keep adapting to stay in-line with the consumer curve.

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