How better dairy can be part of a balanced menu

By Carol Lever, Director, Free Range Dairy Network

One of the top predicted global consumer trends for 2021 is Build Back Better and nowhere is this more apparent than in the food and farming sector. 

After the turbulent year we’ve been through, with concerns about health, the environment and climate change, people want a second chance at creating a better future. For Free Range Dairy Network and our farmers this means building on our principles and messages to reassure ethical consumers that they can still enjoy great tasting milk that doesn’t cost us the earth. This starts with helping people to understand why not all milk is the same

In truth is it’s not the cow, it’s the how, when it comes to carbon and methane emissions from dairy farming. The most fertile soils in the world were built by the interaction between grazing ruminants and grassland. It creates healthy soil which in turn is a great carbon store. Nutrient rich food produced in a way that supports the eco system of the land, Eat Less but Better Quality, must be the way forward when we come to choosing what we eat.  

We’ve always been closer to nature, with the Pasture Promise logo providing an assurance cows are free to graze in fields for a minimum of 180 days each year. Pasture is a renewable natural resource and forms the basis of free range milk on farms. Now we’re working with partners to create a framework that reduces carbon emissions on farms, makes more space for nature, and increases biodiversity.

The dairy industry has ambitious plans to achieve Net Zero Carbon for British agriculture by 2040. Our farmers are already sowing the seeds of species rich pastures, which are capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere for growth. This reduces the need for fertilisers to grow grass. In addition, a move towards extended grazing seasons means there is less mechanical harvesting of grass for winter feeding and learning how to get more from pasture is cutting feed bills on farms and reducing reliance on imported grains.

Trees have always been an important part of Pasture Promise, they provide shade and shelter for cows. Farmers are maintaining ancient trees as well planting new trees. The farmers work with the local bee community, providing space for hives on land not suitable for grazing.

Working in partnership with local dairy companies like Cotteswold Dairy, in Gloucestershire, we support traditional family farms committed to keeping cows in fields and producing milk the way nature intended. The Pasture Promise logo is the only logo on milk and dairy products that protects the right for cows to graze in fields for at least six months of the year.

We are all being asked to make more sustainable choices, whether at home or eating out, and part of that is eating less and better meat and dairy. But to make a real difference for the future of our planet, support those farming systems working to make a difference. 

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