Dairy farmers have dismissed a competition backed by Dragons’ Den guru Deborah Meaden encouraging producers to switch to growing crops for alternative milks as a “gimmick” focused only on making money.
Ms Meaden has joined forces with animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) to offer her expertise to the winning farmer interested in the change.
She said making the switch could be a “lifeline for struggling dairy farmers” and it was a good move for business and “the right thing to do for animals and the planet”.
Bit of a gimmick
But Michael Oakes, NFU dairy board chairman, said the campaign failed to address the sustainable systems used by UK dairy farmers, which are primed to turn grass into nutrient-rich milk.
He told Farmers Weekly: “It has grabbed the headlines and is a bit of a gimmick.
“Lots of farmers are in areas only suitable for growing grass, because of the land type.
“Farmers are always looking for opportunities, and all well and good if it is there, but it will be interesting to see how they work round that.
“I don’t think these campaigns take into account how sustainable our systems are, and how beneficial for the environment it is.”
Peta pointed to the estimation that the UK vegan milk market will be worth £565m by 2025, but Mr Oakes said dairy is by no means waning.
“Yes, there are ups and downs, but globally, the dairy market is growing.
“One of the highest sales increases during the coronavirus lockdown has been cheese.
“On nutrition, dairy is pretty hard to beat, if you look at the nutrients it delivers per calorie.
“A lot of the alternatives, even supplemented, don’t have that kind of value to help the consumer grow.”
Through the competition – which is based on written submissions explaining their rationale – one dairy farmer interested in making the switch will receive a business consultation with Ms Meaden.
Another milk producer, Tudur Evans, who milks 160 cows in Anglesey, North Wales, said: “I honestly think she has no idea what she’s talking about on this subject.
“The only reason she’s involved is she sees the stats of vegan growing percentage wise and she thinks she can make money out of it. That’s all she’s interested in.”