free range milk

A group of farmers has launched the UK’s first free-range network of dairy producers, offering milk and other dairy products from accredited grass-fed cows.

The Free Range Dairy Network is a community interest company of about 30 dairy farms that either process their milk on site or outsource to small processors. It was officially launched on 1 July, with the aim of paying farmers a price premium of at least 5 pence per litre above the cost of production over the next 12 months.

Milk from the network is now on sale in the convenience and food service channels in the North West of England under the Stephenson milk brand, as part of a deal with Lancashire wholesaler Stephenson Foods & Dairy and a processing arrangement with Yorkshire-based Dales Dairies.

The network was also in discussions to launch other local brands across the UK and in talks with the mults over potential supermarket listings, said director Neil Darwent.

All accredited dairy products depict a ‘Free Range Dairy - Pasture Promise’ logo, with farms having to graze cows for at least six months of the year to qualify for membership.

Darwent said milk from traditional pasture-based farms was normally mixed together with that from herds where the cows do not graze outdoors.

He claimed the new scheme would provide dairy farmers with an alternative to “the relentless pursuit of higher milk volumes, delivered from increasingly intensive methods”.