Watching Midweek tonight with its emphasis on how households should cut their costs by spending less on food made me cross! Conor Pope stated that there is no difference between various brands of milk apart from the inflated price of Avonmore milk, inferring that people should buy the cheaper milk. There was no mention of cutting out fizzy drinks or expensive snacks and crisps or ready meals (I saw an article in the Farmers Journal recently about ready meals – most of it isn’t food btw), no mention of replacing crap with fruit and no mention of the importance of calcium in a child’s diet. No mention of ‘”you are what you eat” and if you eat crap, you’ll be spending more money at the doctor’s surgery. €50 a pop for a doctor’s visit would pay for a lot of nutritious Avonmore milk.
No, according to Conor Pope, you must buy cheaper food because after all, as he inferred, it is more or less free to produce it. After all, the farmer can produce his food for nothing. Grass grows naturally in the fields doesn’t it? Cows eat grass so it can’t cost much to produce the milk. The farmers are getting a CAP payment from Europe, why would they want a fair price for their milk?
We are getting a good milk price this year but unfortunately most of it was gone before we got it. Remember that long winter – it cost us close to an extra €20,000 and we didn’t even have to buy fodder. That was the cost of the extra meal.
Grass doesn’t grow free in fields – it requires fertiliser, it requires topping, fields require re-seeding and drainage – it all comes at a cost. The grass has to be cut for winter fodder – that costs money. We gave our contractor €10,000 for cutting the first cut of silage, and we still owe him for the second cut – that’s not even counting the cost of the fertiliser that was spread to get the grass to grow. The cows have to stay indoors in the winter – the sheds they are in cost money to build and maintain. Eight years ago, we had to put in improve slurry storage – that cost €80,000. Straw to bed the cows during the winter (and as feed for bulls and other cattle) – that cost €5,000 this year. AI to get the cows in calf, that will cost about €50 per head. I’m only providing a fraction of the fixed and variable costs here but you get the idea.
Some time ago, I was asked about the possibility of antibiotics in our milk or meat (produced in Ireland) and I was horrified. I couldn’t believe that people thought there might be a risk and I addressed it in this post. That comes at a cost too – if an animal is poorly and is given an injection – he can’t be slaughtered for human consumption within the withdrawal period. If he gets steadily worse and it looks like he’s not going to pull through, he goes to the abbattoir – not the factory! Apart from the fact a sick animal wouldn’t be fit for human consumption, the fact he has had antibiotics in his system would render him unfit anyway. That’s a cost to the farmer – where’s there is life there is death and the farmer carries the cost. If a cow dies, it costs the farmer €200 to have her disposed of. That’s a significant amount of money when added to the loss of the cow. That has to be built into the cost of your breakfast milk.
The next time you look at a 4 litre container of Dunnes or Tesco milk and you look at the price and you compare it to the price of a container of Avonmore milk – think of the farmer who produced that milk. I don’t know why the supermarket milk is cheaper, I don’t know who they source it from, I don’t know if they apply the same stringent tests to it that Avonmore do, I don’t know if they take a lesser margin but we couldn’t produce milk and sell it at less than we do without going under, and that is with the CAP payment. Our cows live happy healthy lives and produce good quality milk. We expect a fair price for it – no more no less and listening to people cribbing about the price of a pint of milk when they are probably spending money on fizzy drinks and cheap sweets is just ridiculous.
Somehow, it all smacks a lot of ‘They shoot horses don’t they?”
Buy Avonmore milk, ensure the health of your family is good and support Irish farmers. That’s all really 🙂
Update: 10/10/2013 – after a debate on twitter this morning, I think I need to add some more points to this.
According to Conor Pope, some of the brands such as Avonmore and Glenisk stock Tesco own brand milk, same cow, same milk. Glenisk claim they once did but no more – now it is totally different cows! My point is there is a point at which milk cannot be produced any cheaper. Maybe Tesco buy in bulk, sell huge amounts and probably take a lesser margin per litre. My problem with it is there will be people this morning looking at their breakfast milk and thinking it should cost less. Neither Pope or the TV3 team used their intelligence to give the other side of the argument and look at what it costs to produce that litre of milk and what each stage of the production line gets out of it.
Why do consumers need cheap food? The programme also pointed to the essential purchase of a TV licence. Lots of people watching Midweek would have been watching it on a huge TV and are now going to limit their intake of milk because it should be cheaper. The consumer demand for cheap food drove those profiteering from horsemeat earlier this year – do we really want to run that risk again?