Where to Shop
Good Milk Directory.
There’s no doubt that consuming dairy at the current rate comes at an environmental and ethical cost (see Dairy Diaries). After the deregulation of the dairy industry in 2000, the mantra quickly became “get big or get out”. Since then the trend has been towards fewer but larger, more intensive operations, which puts more stress on the environment, dairy cows and resources such as water, grain and land. According to Dairy Australia, there are about 6,100 dairy farmers in Australia. Roughly 2,600 supply Murray Goulburn and 1,200 supply Fonterra – that’s 60% of all dairy farmers in total.
Large retailers have contributed to this race to the bottom by launching price war campaigns promoting milk at $1 a litre (less than the cost of a bottle of water and less than the cost of production).
Thankfully there are still farmers working their backsides off to offer full flavoured milk with minimal intervention (not heated and treated to within an inch of its life); farmers who adopt organic and biodynamic farming principles to ensure the health of their farm and herd.
There’s no doubt that there are still significant environmental and animal ethics considerations when consuming any type of dairy. We can’t change the fact that cows burp and fart methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2.
It is also a harsh reality that in order for cows to continue producing milk they must be impregnated each year, their calves often separated from them with 24 hours of birth (if the calf is a girl it will be kept and raised to enter the herd, if it’s a boy it will often be sent to slaughter as a by-product of the dairy industry). Apart from a handful of producers, this will be the case regardless of the farming style they have adopted.
HOW AND WHERE TO BUY MILK
1. Our motto is to treat dairy like meat and make it a treat.
Buy it from farmers’ markets and local independents near you, and if you have no choice but to buy from a large retailer then opting for organic milk is a good start. This means no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides have been used on farm, cows adhere to an organic diet and animal welfare requirements are more stringent.
“For distinctive flavour, seek unhomogenised milk, pasteurised at a low temperature, from a single farm. For creaminess, choose a Jersey or Guernsey herd. For a better world, support those who cultivate rich soil, minimise plastic and prioritise animal welfare.” Sharon Lee, Flavour Crusader.
Visit The Good Milk Directory, a state-by-state listing of independent dairy brands, lovingly compiled by
2. What to look for when buying organic and biodynamic dairy products.
Buying organic/biodynamic milk, cheese and yoghurt means you’re supporting a better way of dairy farming – you’re encouraging the industry to head that way. Organic/biodynamic dairy farming works to strict standards in order to improve the health of the environment and maximise animal welfare, so you can be assured that the milk you’re consuming is healthy for you, kinder on the cow and better for the planet.
You may need to pay a little extra for this type of dairy because of the extra labour involved – reducing your overall dairy intake can help balance your budget.
Organic and Biodynamic certification logos to look out for:
*Small Producer Program, part of ACO
3. Ask questions
If you’re concerned about the ethical implications of dairy farming, ask the farmer about what they do to address this. All dairy farms face the same issues when it comes to bobby calves for instance, so it’s worth asking how the farm addresses these issues so that you can make an informed choice. The sort of questions to consider asking include:
- How do you manage the calves on your farm?
- Do you buy in grain or other feed to supplement the pasture? If so, what percentage?
- Do you use synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides on the pasture? (of course, certified organic/biodynamic farms are not allowed to use these inputs)
4. Spread the word
Knowledge is power, so share what you’ve learned with your family, friends and colleagues so that together we can make a real difference.