When I first started this blog (135 posts ago!) I was a vegan. I commenced this short-lived experiment as I felt strongly about the way that dairy cattle are intensively farmed. Increasingly they are:
- being permanently kept in indoor environments to reduce costs and maximise yields
- culled at around 5 years old when their normal life expectancy should be 18 or 19 years
- removed from their mothers at birth and if they are male they are either shot immediately or raised for veal*.
Partly it is our own greed for supermarket loss-leaders resulting in each dairy farmer in the UK being subsidised by an average of £32,300 a year**. Isn't this crazy? Shouldn't the supermarkets (and ergo the consumer) pay the true cost of food to the source rather than the government making up losses through consumer's taxes? People argue that cheap food is a right but when 50% of the population is expected to be obese by 2030 (The Lancet, 2011), surely food is too cheap? Malnutrition in this country isn't due to a lack of food it is due to eating the wrong food.
To me this is the no-brainer solution to my dairy concerns however I am not expecting to convert the masses, I'm just letting people know that there is an alternative. Steve and I drink on average two pints of milk a week and we can afford to pay £1.99 a litre as opposed to £0.45 (the average price in supermarkets resulting in a loss to the farmer of £0.04 per litre)***. Yes it is comparably expensive but it is the true cost of sustainable, ethical farming and now with the launch of Cow Nation I really can have my (cheese)cake and eat it.
*According to Farmers Weekly (April 2011), 2,000 Holstein male dairy calves are shot each week. Don't make the mistake of thinking that they grow up to become a tasty burger; consumers prefer a less fatty meat resulting in male dairy calves becoming a by-product of the dairy industry.
**Figures for the twelve months ending February 2010 (Farm Business Survey 2011).
*** The eagle-eyed readers in the audience will note that incredibly milk is cheaper than water which currently retails at £0.88 per litre.