In the first significant development for the brand, ‘Free Range Milk’ is being served in some of London’s top hotels, restaurants and caterers from this week, earning farmers a premium.
Free Range Dairy CIC has teamed up with dairy wholesaler Foodspeed and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) to launch an initiative that will see milk sold under the ‘Pasture Promise label’ appear in some well-known London establishments, including the Cavendish Hotel and private members club the Hospital Club.
Free Range Dairy CIC was established directors Carol Lever and Somerset farmer Neil Darwent in 2014 to promote milk from pasture-fed cattle under the Pasture Promise label.
It guarantees cows graze for six months of the year outside on pasture, offering a premium to British farmers ‘running sustainable dairy farms’.
Under the new initiative, Cotteswold Dairy is processing Free Range Milk under the Pasture Promise label from selected local farms within 30 miles of the dairy in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.
Family owned dairy merchants, Foodspeed, which as a carbon neutral company is the only dairy supplier currently approved by the SRA, is now delivering Free Range Milk to some of London’s leading chefs.
The project is still at a relatively small scale, with four farms currently supplying the milk to Cotteswold.
Mr Darwent said the initiative currently delivers a premium of about 4-5ppl at wholesale level, with just an extra 2ppl or getting back to the farmer, short of the 5ppl he hopes the project will eventually deliver to the farmgate.
“There are disproportionately high segregation costs at the moment because of the smaller volumes. We are hoping to build that premium as we grow sales volumes and the costs come down,” he said.
“That was the whole reason I started talking about this – to bring more back to farmers. Our ambition is to create a significant premium but you have to extract it from the market as there no room to squeeze in the chain, everyone is under immense pressure.”
With a further three farms supplying milk to Dales Dairies in Yorkshire under the Free Range brand, he said the initiative was growing the capacity to deliver on a national scale.
While the initial focus was on the food service sector, Mr Darwent hopes in the future to pursue retail opportunities, which he acknowledged were currently ’very limited’.
He added: “In a world where people are increasingly concerned about how food is produced and the life that farm animals are afforded, Free Range Dairy CIC offers a chance for us all to consume milk responsibly.
“The collaboration we have established with Cotteswold Dairy and Foodspeed, gives farmers an alternative to the mass production of commodity milk from intensive farming and supports traditional, British dairy farms in the current crisis.”
The SRA has been working with Free Range Dairy to promote high welfare milk and dairy products from sustainable farms in these outlets.
SRA managing director Mark Linehan said: “Most people would assume that the milk they drink comes from cows that graze out in the field.
“But an increasing volume of milk comes from cows kept intensively indoors.
Free Range milk is helping to reconnect people with where their food and drink comes from, while also providing a better deal for farmers, chefs, consumers and, importantly, the cows.”