Does anyone know where you can buy a bottle of free range milk?

by a Concerned Consumer
 

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? 

Look out for the new label coming out soon - with no "LOVED COWS" though.
Look out for the new label coming out soon – with no “LOVED COWS” though.

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.

The previous organic milk label.
The previous organic milk label.
Current organic dairy label without the "roam freely".
Current organic dairy label without the “roam freely”.

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 grassconsumergroup@gmail.com

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Helping you find integrity in the food chain soniam@eategrity.co.za

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Posted in CONSUMER AWARENESS, DAIRY
11 comments on “Does anyone know where you can buy a bottle of free range milk?
  1. GRASS says:

    We have visited Camphill Hemel-En-Aarde Valley near Hermanus and we can highly recommend purchasing their produce. They have been a wonderful resource on showing how to produce dairy products whilst achieving higher animal welfare standards. We promise to do the write up – so far behind with our write-ups on farms that some farms even need to be visited a second time since conditions have changed. So, if you can find Camphill Hermanus dairy then yes please support them by purchasing their products. We do plan to visit Camphill West Coast this year too.

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  2. Hi there, any feedback on Camphill ? Thank you !

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    • GRASS says:

      Hi Lorinda, please see our reply at the bottom of the page. We do highly recommend Camphill Hemel-en-Aarde produce and we promise to visit Camphill Westcoast too.

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      • Lorinda Johnson says:

        Thank you for the info. I do purchase Camphill products through the Ethical Co-Op and am really very happy with them. Would appreciate your feedback on Camphill Westcoast once you have visited

        Kind regards Lorinda Johnson

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  3. I source milk from the Mooiberry Farm. I am told 80 percent of the time their cows are pasture-raised but apparently in winter they ARE supplemented with additional GM feed. At least that is a huge improvement on the milk available from most supermarkets with the exception of Thrupps that also stock organic milk from Weleda, I think.

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  4. Varsha…..did you ask what happens to the calves which the cows are required to produce in order to privide the milk? Would love to know…….! I think the kindest option is to avoid dairy products. Soya is fantastic and once one is used to it, you will not enjoy cow’s milk at all.

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    • GRASS says:

      Hi Varsha, have a look at our post “Light on Dairy” and also the video clip “The true price of dairy” which gives more insight into dairy farm practices.

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  5. Varsha says:

    The Weleda Farm in Johannesburg does. The cows actually have names there. Haven’t visited it yet but will soon.
    They not only provide organic milk, but also Raw milk, and other dairy products like yogurt, butter and cream cheeses.
    They supply to the Weleda pharmacy in Bryanston, opposite the Organic market. There is also one in Cape Town, but I don’t remember the name of the farm.
    This was all I could come up with from all my investigations 😦

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    • grassconsumergroup says:

      Varsha, that sounds very promising, would love to hear your feedback once you do visit the farm. Please keep us posted and thank you.

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    • Cape Town has Camphill farm where the cows roam free and are called in for milking. You can buy there produce via Ethical Co-op. Of course you have to try and not think about what happens to the calves as they must be sent off for slaughter. I am investigating that. I found a farmer who owns Spier Biodiversity farm and he has incredible ethics when dealing with the animals. We cannot stop people eating meat but we can encourage farmers to treat the animals well.

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      • GRASS says:

        Camphill products can also be purchased at Organic Zone in Westlake. We still need to do a farm visit to Camphill so will do a story on them shortly. Dairy farming raises many ethical and animal cruelty issues even when the farmer maintains the highest ethical standards.
        We visited Spier last year in December and will post that story soon. Spier “truly free range” eggs can be purchased at Organic Zone. I encourage you to read Farmer Angus’s story on truly free range here http://www.farmerangus.co.za

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