Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, & What We Can Do About It

Have you ever tried American ‘Cheddar’ cheese? I have – in my pre-vegan days of course. It’s yellow-ish and does bear a passing resemblance to the cheddar we know. But I can tell you, it’s rubbery. Try to grate it and it just bends. As to taste, it’s not the best, a bit like the first vegan cheeses used to beūüėČ

Anyway, the taste and texture of US cheese is pretty irrelevant to vegans, except for one thing: America has a cheese mountain Рthe largest cheese mountain for 30 years. And the reason for that mountain is that our European cheese is now so cheap that people would rather buy a piece of fancy French or wedge of Wensleydale than their own home produce. What is coming out of American dairy farms is simply surplus to requirements.

But hang on, didn’t we just say European cheese is now dirt cheap? Why is that exactly?

Katy Askew has the answer: “The UK dairy sector has … a large surplus of milk, with production outstripping demand. And the over-supply is Europe-wide.” (just-food¬†24th Feb 2016).

Too much dairy here in Europe too. No wonder the USA can buy our cheese for cents.

Well British farmers have been complaining for years that they can’t scrape a living¬†producing milk, with the rock bottom prices they are getting.

As¬†The Guardian¬†has it, “a¬†global surplus of milk, an increase in feed prices and the supermarket wars have left British dairy farmers on the ropes.¬†Global dairy prices have been falling for months as good weather helped boost production just as a Russian ban on importing dairy goods from Europe and a decline in sales to China dents demand.”

Who would have thought Europe exports dairy products to China? We live in a world gone mad. But to continue with The Guardian:

“The farmers‚Äô union, the NFU, is worried. It says the¬†number of dairy farmers in England and Wales¬†has halved in just over a decade and claims that 60 left the industry in December 2014 alone. It warns that if the trend continues, the industry will be destroyed, the shape of the countryside changed forever.” Hopefully for the better, say I – no slurry pits, no silage silos, no¬†ugly¬†hangar-size sheds. Not too much apple blossom on THOSE in the Spring!

Farmers blamed the supermarkets for screwing them to the floor, and in¬†August last year the dairy farmers’ called for a supermarket boycott against Morrison’s Aldi, Lidl and Asda, all the lower cost chains. A¬†few cows even had themselves a surprise outing¬†to Asda, though I doubt they were in much of a mood for shopping.

Video from Express & Star

All good fun, you might think. The customers and staff in the store were clearly enjoying it. But actually, animal advocates in the UK were angry, not only for the additional stress it may have caused those cows (as if their lives weren’t stressful enough with having their newborn calves torn away from them) But also because these sort of uncontrolled livestock movements (likewise county shows) increase the risk of spreading bTB, for which our badgers are paying an unjustifiable and heavy price.

But back to those¬†mountains and¬†lakes. ¬†just-food again:¬†“Chairman of Dairy UK Dr David Dobbin has written to UK Farming Minister George Eustice saying: ‘Despite depressed returns, the growth in global milk production, especially from Europe including the UK, is still rising and running well ahead of global demand. As a result, stocks of powder, butter, cheese and skimmed milk are high across Europe, including the UK.’

Dr Dobbin called on the UK government to use its ‘lobbying weight’ within Europe ‘regarding intervention, to avoid further distress at farmer and processor level, and find a positive way in which DEFRA [the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] can help the UK industry.’

Dr Dobbin also stressed the need for the UK dairy sector to ‘up our game’ and ‘hunt out opportunities in domestic and export¬†markets’ ¬†for¬†British dairy products. He stressed the need for government and industry to work together to¬†‘develop ways to promote UK dairy globally and generate more demand in international markets’.”

In other words he wants to make the market for dairy¬†supply-driven, not consumer-driven, just as is American meat.¬†Does this make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me. If you operate in a market economy, as we supposedly do, don’t you as a producer modify your production in response to consumer demand? If the market is saturated and you find yourself with small returns, or are even operating at a loss, wouldn’t you think it’s time to turn your hand to something else?

Why do the farmers think they merit special government intervention? What other industry receives support from Westminster? Did the miners get support? Did the steel industry get support? Did the shipbuilders get support? Did aeronautics get support? Of course not. When the government has a genuine market opportunity to make a difference, with for example, MOD procurement, they generally shop in America.

Well, I have the answer to solve all the dairy farmers’¬†problems here in the UK. Just as relevant for Europe and¬†the USA too. Or I should say, The Vegan Society has the answer. It’s called¬†Grow Green, and¬†a vitally¬†important initiative it is.

Vegan Society Grow Green Campaign Sustainability Food SecurityIt’s all about shifting from livestock-centred farming towards a plant-based¬†farming industry.

The Vegan Society says:¬†The UK climate provides the perfect conditions for growing plant protein for direct human consumption. Despite having successfully done this for centuries, the UK currently only assigns around 16% of agricultural land to the growing of protein crops ‚Äď much of which goes towards feeding farm animals.

Grow green protein, and end animal suffering and climate change. It makes sense, doesn’t it? ¬†You can help it make sense to our decision-makers by downloading our new Grow Green report¬†here,¬†and sending it to your MP with this form.¬†You can check below the form¬†for points you may wish to raise to with your MP



Let’s give those despairing dairy farmers something better to do with their labour¬†and their land. Better for food security, better for sustainability, better for the environment, better for animals, better for biodiversity, better for human health, better for the planet.

What are they waiting for?



9 thoughts on “Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, & What We Can Do About It

  1. hi!
    Me parece muy conseguida tu convencimiento sobre este asunto.
    Desde alg√ļn tiempo atr√°s que estoy interesado en esto e intento aprender todo lo que puedo sobre esto.

    La contribución que has confeccionado me
    ha parecido muy √ļtil, no obstante creo que se podr√≠a indagar un poco m√°s y de igual modo poder aclarar ciertas dudas
    que a√ļn atesoro. De todos modos, mil gracias por tu participaci√≥n. Voy a estar atento a pr√≥ximas publicaciones que produzcas.
    Muchas gracias.
    Hasta otra.


  2. I had been working away at this problem for very quite a while previously and
    possess arrived at some concepts too. Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, & What We Can Do About
    It is definitely a urgent matter today. And this blog post might be probably the most practical from what I have read through.


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