More and more people are choosing only organic dairy produce and the reasons for this are:
People are increasingly wanting to know that the products they are consuming are as naturally produced as practicable, without the use of artificial growth hormones, fertilisers, and pesticides or genetic modification.
Organic farming stresses the importance of animal welfare. Organic dairy farming reduces the conventional pressures on cows to produce very high yields, improving the cows total well-being.
Removing artificial fertilisers and pesticides and using natural methods to sustain fertility and minimise disease, reduces the impact of farming on the wider environment.
Customers looking to buy fresh, healthy local produce at reasonable prices.
Recent events in the food industry have prompted many people to deal more directly with producers. Consumer concerns about food safety, traceability and the effect of cut-price food on farmers and staff have led many to seek out organic products.
FARMING THE PRESENT
Agriculture over time has always evolved. As farmers enter the new millennium they face a stark choice at the crossroads of modern society.
Driven by shareholder pressure and customer demands for ever low food prices, the large food retailers expect to buy UK produced food at world commodity prices. This pressure is forcing UK dairy farmers to keep ever larger herds of cows, using the "best" of modern science and technology to replace people, following the example of New Zealand and the United States. California is in the enviable position of having a large population and hence the associated demands for milk, whilst having the natural advantages of excellent maize and Lucerne growing conditions with plentiful labour from Mexico. They are now told that a herd of 500 cows is no longer economic and herds of 1,000 cows are now being set up in the UK.
Faced by this economic juggernaut the 30,000 UK dairy farmer figure is expected to halve over the next few years. The conventional wisdom within agriculture and Government is that farmers have to expect world commodity prices (and their production techniques) or go the way of the Dodo and the coal miner. Driven by the supermarkets and big business, it is expected that this scenario will cover 95% of all food production.
There is a choice. Some would argue that large scale food production has gone too far and would cite BSE, BST (hormone injections to increase milk yields per cow, widely used in the US), potential overuse of antibiotics in intensive livestock units and Genetically Modified Organisms, amongst others as evidence. They would say that Organic Farming is an alternative, producing local food for local communities, reducing the intensity of agriculture by reducing the output to that achieved by natural inputs, employing more people to replace the use of artificial chemicals.
This is not just a change of direction facing the farmer, it is a complete u-turn, not without risk, The costs of producing organic food are higher than conventional commodity items.
Is the consumer prepared to pay the premium for organic produce, based on such issues as taste, ethics, safety, welfare and environment? Can the organic movement change from niche market to mainstream production or will it flounder against the buffers of consumer demand for ever lower commodity prices?
RECREATING THE FARMER - CONSUMER LINK
Food produced and consumed locally cuts down on transport costs, reduces packaging and helps keep communities thriving. It is not only fresher, healthier and more economical for people, but is also the most positive way of taking care of the environment.