Would you like ethics with that?

A consultant once told me: “My services can be described as cheap, good and quick but you can only have two of the three at once.”

When it comes to milk, the choices are: cheap, good and ethical. Under the umbrella of “ethical” comes animal wellbeing, the environment and the welfare of farming families.

I don’t have any input on which pair wins out – you and the thousands of others who drink our milk or eat our cheese do. At the moment, with prices falling and consumers celebrating milk that’s cheaper than water, it seems “ethical” is the loser.

As someone who farms because she loves the land and her animals, this is very, very sad news. Currently, it is my family that is missing out rather than land or animal. Eventually though, we won’t be able to carry the burden and we will be the ones facing three choices:

1. Find a way to fund niche value adding for ethical products;
2. Industrialise our farming practices and see a fall in animal wellbeing and environmental outcomes; or
3. Leave farming.

Only time will tell.

With this in mind, it was interesting to read this comment in response to Lynne Strong’s point that consumers have a role to play in animal welfare standards following a story on The Conversation:

“Is it the case that, in buying a $5.00, 2L carton of milk in Australia, I can be assured that the product was sourced more ethically than the $2 Coles brand?”

Of course not but you can be sure that by purchasing unsustainably priced milk, you will be putting pressure on ethical standards right across the country.

6 Comments

Filed under Dairy Products

6 responses to “Would you like ethics with that?

  1. Margaret

    Excellent point Marian. $5 gives no guarantee but $2 gives less. And ethics includes appropriate ROI for farmers as well as focus on welfare.

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  2. Julie D

    Hi Marion,
    I saw the discussion threads on The Conversation this morning. Thanks for your and Lynne’s additions to the discussions. It’s a shame that there is now a demand for the $5 carton to be proven to be more “ethical” to justify the spend, supporting your local farmer and paying a fair price should be enough. It probably won’t be long before the big C puts on it’s carton’s that its “never frozen or thawed” or some other misconception device in attempt to differentiate, as “we’re killing farmer confidence to give it to you cheap” would be too truthful!
    Keep up the good fight!

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  3. Yes Marian Brad Stringer’s support for $5 milk is admirable unfortunately he is in the minority as regular surveys by the big supermarkets show. I did enjoy the to and fro on The Conversation. Readers of this awesome resource tend to be deep thinkers and have very open minds. As a farmer its great to engage at this level to get a clearer understanding of consumer values and expectations of farmers. Like u I get up everyday hoping the farming landscape we operate is going to be less hostile for farmers. My family love what they do and strive very hard to be the image our customers want to see. I will do everything thing I can to engage, share my story so they can make informed decisions

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  4. Michael T

    Buying $5 milk won’t affect change in ethical farming practices immediately. But be assured that over time sustainable prices for milk will result in better ethical and environmental outcomes. I am a dairy farmer who used to work in sales and ruminant nutrition for a stock feed supplier. Without fail every time the milk price dropped cattle, the environment and farming families suffered.

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