In a joint letter to The Times, the celebrity chefs wrote: “It is time supermarkets stopped using milk as a loss leader. And if they won’t take that initiative, then perhaps shoppers will consider moving their custom from those who offer milk at crazy knockdown prices to those who commit to giving dairy farmers a fairer deal.”
Current milk pricing was damaging British dairy farming and would threaten to jeopardise the British landscape, if it resulted in super dairy units, they added.
The celebrities’ call was preceded by similar advice from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
John Avizienius, RSPCA deputy head of the farm animal science team, said: “Although a drop in the cost of milk and cheap deals might seem like great news for shoppers, we are concerned that ultimately it will be the cows which will pay the price.
“I believe shoppers would be even happy to pay an extra one or two pence on a pint of milk if it safeguarded dairy cow welfare.”
Furious milk producers have staged nationwide protests about milk prices paid by some retailers and milk processors which, they claimed, were 5p per litre below production costs.
Retail giants Tesco and Sainsbury together with Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have won praise for paying fair milk prices.
But retailers Asda and Morrisons and dairy processors Arla and Dairy Crest have been singled out for criticism from milk producers.
A Morrisons spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We are paying dairy producers a subsidy of 1p a litre. But we realise they are suffering pain and we are looking at a different pricing model."
Last week, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) rejected accusations from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that food manufacturers should do more to support milk prices.
Terry Jones, the FDF’s communications director, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “By and large, food manufacturers are not big buyers of liquid milk.
“The products they do buy are, for the most part, not manufactured in the UK as the primary processors of milk have tended to focus on other commodities.”
But, the BRC’s food director, Andrew Opie, said: “The pressure should be on other big buyers of milk – food manufacturers [dairy processors] and the public sector — to show the same strong support for the industry that retailers do.”
He claimed: “The truth is, the farmers in the best position are often those in supermarket supply chains.”
Milk producers are planning more milk protests at the Royal Welsh Show on Monday July 23.
To read more, click here .
To view our photo gallery of milk protests at the Yorkshire Show, click here .
Fearnley-Whittingstall is one of six food industry leaders battling for the title Food Manufacture Personality of the Year. Who will you vote for? Click here to make your selection.
What they say about milk prices
- “We pay more for bottled water than we do for milk. Yet water bubbles out of the ground, while milk comes from livestock, which need our care. How mad is that?” Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
- “We fully understand the strength of feeling among dairy producers but we are not in a position to fund a milk price at the level it was at prior to the collapse in the commodity value of cream." Spokesman for Robert Wiseman.
- “The catastrophic cuts will drive farmers out of the dairy industry and we are united in our demand for an immediate reversal of recent and planned cuts.” Joint statement from the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, Tenant Farmers Association and Farmers for Action.
- “If you do a fair day’s work you deserve fair pay for what you produce. But, for too long, dairy farmers have been at the mercy of opportunistic price cuts that have driven more and more of them out of business.” Bill Bryson, Council for the Protection of Rural England.