Sustainable dilemmas (6) – more milk

My milk comes from a milkman (or milkperson) and arrives on my doorstep.  But it comes from cows before then. Which cows?

When my house was built in 1899 I imagine there were milk deliveries (were there?) but of a very different nature. I imagine that the distance between my house and the cow that produced the milk used in it 119 years ago was not very far – a few miles?  The challenges of getting milk from cow to home at that time must have been more challenging.

But where is the cow giving me my milk these days?  I don’t know, but I’d be amazed if there is any link with localness.

I struggle to think of the nearest herd of dairy cows to my house.  The only one in my consciousness is about five miles away and was on my former route to work in Sandy. Occasionally I would be slightly delayed as a herd of cows were moved across the road after being milked.  That dairy farm was often where I saw my first Swallow of the year away from reservoirs and gravel pits. And it was the only herd of cows I would pass on my 25-mile journey to work.  It’s a noticeable rarity in these parts.

I wonder whether my milkman (milkperson) knows the origin of the milk he (she) delivers? How about you?

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10 Replies to “Sustainable dilemmas (6) – more milk”

  1. My brother, an organic dairy farmer with decent cows and good welfare standards, says definitely English for doorstep milk, probably supplied by Arla, Muller Wiseman or Coop. Most likely Somerset or at least West Country. Ask your delivery man. Apparently doorstep deliveries in glass bottles are making a bit of a come back. An interesting industry certainly.

  2. Like you, going by your picture, I buy the co-op's organic except I choose the whole milk (blue top) and I reckon it to be much better than the non-organic and better than some of the other organic labels available. My father 92 (today as it should happen) recalls taking milk by horse and cart in Ramsbottom, Lancashire in the 30's and 40's and delivering it fresh into people's own pint or quart jugs. No packaging at all then. The arrangement was often as not to go in the kitchen to fetch the jug fill it and put it back.

    Much milk was delivered to the cities by train. For example from here in north Staffordshire in the 1930s milk went overnight in large milk kits from very rural locations by special milk train to be on London and other city doorsteps in the morning.

    Grazing cows have been a vanishing sight in the Staffordshire Moorlands in the last decade or so - numerous dairy farms having ceased and a surprising proportion of those remaining now keeping their herds indoors and unseen. This presenting a whole new contention in grass and muck management both having to be carted to and from one place year round - lots of tractor driving. In the 1960's a good herd might have been 30 cows or so, more recently perhaps double that, and they could be walked out to graze. Now herds are 150 to 300 it's often impractical to get them to and from the fields.

    Like you though, I don't know where my co-op organic milk comes from. My dad though is still getting his unpasteurised green top (whole milk) pint delivered to the doorstep and from a farm hardly a mile away. A pint a day... the only concession to progress is that it is now delivered every two days rather than daily - but that's to help keep delivery sustainable and no harm in that. There must be other examples but they will be few I'm sure and the real issue is the sustainability of 66Million or 7Billion.

  3. Thank your lucky stars that you now get bacteria free milk of good quality in all respects including cleanliness all along the line.Milk now cooled to about 5C in seconds from leaving the cow.Then if you were lucky cooled to 29C about ten minutes from leaving the cow.
    You would not want to touch milk of the quality it was in 1899 or even in the first half of the 20th century.
    My guess is there was even TB in the milk until serious testing began I believe in the 1930s

  4. Watch the film "Cowspiracy" and you won't need or want milk any more 🙂

    I know not all will agree ......

    1. "... need or want ..."

      Many years ago in Wageningen I was having breakfast with some Dutch and Belgian grass breeders who commented that the alleged English love of tea was odd as we obviously didn't like the taste and had to disguise it with milk. I thought this was a bit rich coming from people who sprinkled chocolate ants on buttered bread and ate it using a knife and fork and smoked Caballeros between courses. Needs and wants demonstrated as very influenced by habit and preference. I heard the word "Sapristi!" spoken for the first time and realised it wasn't just a made-up word used by Luck of the Legion in the Eagle comic.

    2. Each person in film seemed to spout more rubbish and hot air than a herd of cows would fart in their lives.
      What a load of bullshit that film is.

  5. Don't buy cows milk at all. Switch to plant-based alternatives which require far less land to be cleared for agriculture and give nature more space. Besides which, unless you're a baby cow, drinking their breastmilk is simply weird, isn't it?

    The coconut-based ones are great in tea and on breakfast cereal. For baking cakes use soya milk.

    1. "...plant-based alternatives which require far less land to be cleared for agriculture and give nature more space"


      Coconut milk - great if your fine with high CO2 shipping, severe soil degradation, monoculture and exploitation.

    2. Yes always lots for nature where Soya and Coconuts grow.Funny part is always more birds where cattle are kept.


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