Organic milk and branding

Dear Hazel

This is a really good question, but one that's tricky to answer. It depends on how you define 'better'. If you are buying milk based on whether it's truly organic as far as certification is concerned, any brand sold as organic in the UK certainly is organic by law. So all organic milk is way better for your health, in terms of flavour and for the environment than non-organic milk.

Some organic milks are better than others because of the amount of processing or lack of it. Most organic milk is now homogenised, a mechanical process that involves squeezing milk through a tube to mix the cream evenly into the milk. Homogenised milk has to be labelled as such in the UK. I personally avoid homogenised milk where possible, because not only do I enjoy shaking my cream into my milk, but I think it's so easy to do, I'd rather avoid a mechanical process. And there is some evidence building that homogenisation can adversely effect coronary health. Manor Farm Dairies branded milks are not homogenised, and many local diaries around the UK provide organic non-homogenised milk. But you do have to track it down, as most milk sold in supermarkets is homogenised.

Then there's better in terms of supporting your community. If you can find organic milk that's from a local dairy, that's got to be best in terms of fair trade economics. More of your milk money will go to the farmer if you buy local instead of buying supermarket-branded. Yeo Valley is still UK-run, and Rachel's Dairy is owned by Horizon, Inc, a big but beautiful US organic corporation that sells dairy products from Tokyo to Totnes.

Better in terms of taste? That's up to you to decide. But you'll probably prefer milk from single herds that have been grazing in open meadows. The herbs that are mixed in with the grass help flavour the milk, whereas big big dairy farms are much more regimented in terms of feed.

And how about buying milk based on the environment? Personally I absolutely detest buying milk in those plastic containers. The plastic will NEVER biodegrade. I find that shocking. Disgraceful. In this day and age when milk cartons are so recycled and brilliant, there's just no excuse to package milk in plastic, especially organic milk. They say it's something to do with people preferring the appearance in plastic bottles. I just say it's wrong.

So, Hazel, it's up to you how you balance these factors when selecting your organic pint. I wish I could just say "Buy Brand X", but these are personal moral choices, so it's up to each of us to figure out how we use our consumer spending power.

Enjoy you organic pint, whichever brand you go for...

Best wishes


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