How to make an informed choice about the milk you buy

Clear labelling of products like meat and eggs means that consumers can make an informed choice in the supermarket about animal welfare standards. But what about milk?

We strongly believe that for cow welfare to be completely assured, cows need access to pasture for at least half of the year, and therefore encourage supermarkets to guarantee the best possible welfare for the cows they are sourcing their own label milk from.

If you want to find out more about the milk you buy and whether the cows have been able to graze outdoors, read more about what these labels can tell you.

Look out for free range milk labels

Although they aren’t yet in the supermarkets, it is possible to find milk labelled as free range in some smaller local stores and businesses. We have worked closely with the Free Range Dairy Network, whose Pasture Promise™ label is the only one to give a clear assurance that milk comes from cows that enjoy the freedom to graze on grass for at least 180 days and nights each year.

Find out more about the Pasture Promise label and where you can buy their milk.

Waitrose and Marks & Spencers

Waitrose and Marks & Spencers are the only supermarkets to guarantee that that all the cows producing their own label fresh milk and cream have access to a minimum of 100 days grazing every year. For Waitrose, this is a guaranteed minimum, and the reality is that their cows usually spend longer outside depending on the weather.

Organic Milk by the Soil Association

Organic dairy cows spend much of their lives outdoors where they can graze naturally on a diet of grass. Keeping cows indoors all their lives is banned under organic standards.

When they go indoors because of bad weather, all cows must be housed in well-bedded spacious yards. The time they spend indoors will never be more than one fifth of their lifetime. Organic cattle do not have to be housed during the winter, but if they are kept outside, there must be shelter, food and water.

Organic dairy cows are generally not pushed to their milk producing limits in the same way other cows can be.  Average yields in organic milk production are around a third less than in intensive production. 

If you know of any other free range milk labels that should be listed here, then please let us know by emailing hello@worldanimalprotection.org.uk

If you want to find out even more about the lives of dairy cows in the UK, download and read our report.

Holstein cattle on Worthy Farm, Glastonbury

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