Does anyone know where you can buy a bottle of free-range milk these days? By that I mean milk from cows that roam freely outdoors, grazing on pasture all day, as cows naturally do, rather than living in barns, standing knee deep in their own manure, and fed GMO feed.
People used to say : Go to Checkers – they stock “Fair Cape Free-range milk”. Sure enough, the label described “juicy pastures” and “natural grazing”. When it launched, an article on Biz Community.com said : “Cape Town-based dairy, Fair Cape, has converted all its milk products to free range and become the first South African supplier of free range milk. While other free range products, such as eggs, have been available in South Africa for a long time, this is the first time that consumers will also have access to free range milk.” Pretty clear hey? But then one day a customer visited the farm, and discovered that far from ranging freely in juicy pastures, these cows lived in barns, stood knee deep in their own manure all day, and were fed GMO feed. Fair Cape’s response was : “We did not call the milk ‘free range’, we called it ‘Fair Cape Free Range’ – that is, Fair Cape’s take on free range.” Many customers were stunned. I’m not sure what Checkers’ response was, but I presume not much, as they still continue to stock Fair Cape milk, except that it’s now labeled “Fair Cape Eco-fresh milk…Do the right thing”. Really? When you didn’t?
So no free-range milk at Checkers then.
Next stop Woolworths. On first glance it looked promising. Woolworths stocks Essentials, Ayrshire and Organic fresh milk. An article in TASTE magazine said “Ayrshire herds…spend their days in tranquil green pastures with access to plenty of good food and fresh, clean water”. On the Ayrshire milk label was a photograph of a cow in a field. “At last, free-range milk.” But after a few cursory enquiries it emerged that Ayrshire cows originate from Scotland, and due to the heat in Africa and lack of rainfall in certain of our provinces (which affects pasture), only about 50% of Woolworths Ayrshire herds can spend their days in tranquil green pastures, the other 50% need to be kept in barns. Oh no, but you said…in the TV advert…in the TASTE article? Do these mean nothing at all?
What about Woolworths Organic milk then? The label said : “Produced from cows that roam freely and graze on organic pastures.” Well that’s pretty self-explanatory isn’t it, excellent! But wait…”What’s that – your organic cows also have to spend the majority of their lives in barns due to the heat and insufficient pasture? But why does your label say otherwise? Oh you’ll change it? But why only now that we are asking questions? (very long pause…..) Because you’ve recently changed farms? When? You won’t tell us? What farm did you change from? You won’t tell us that either? Why ever not?!
Suffice to say, that after our enquiries, the Woolworths Organic Milk label was changed too, and now says : “Produced from cows that are fed organic feed.”
So no free-range milk at Woolworths then either! And at Woolworths…”organic” does not mean free-range. It used to…but suddenly it doesn’t.
If this is how customers are being treated by the winner of the International Responsible Retailer of the Year award….then what’s it like further down the retail chain in South Africa? And why do retailers here feel they can act with such impunity? Is it because they think nobody is watching? Are they taking advantage of an uneducated and semi-illiterate consumer? Is it because the promises they make on their labels are not legislated by government….because there is no danger of any inspectors dropping in to check on compliance? Is it because in South Africa today retailers can do whatever they want?
As we saw with the donkey meat scandal, it seems that South African consumers are being hoodwinked, and are at the mercy of a lack of control regarding food labeling.
Back to free-range milk…what about Pick ‘n Pay or Spar? Does anyone know if they stock it? In fact if anyone knows where you can buy a bottle of genuine free-range milk anywhere in the whole of South Africa, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org