Letter to The Times about cow's milk's sustainability and nutrition

Friday, 17 September 2021

A joint letter from AHDB, Dairy UK and NFU to The Times in response to an article questioning the sustainability and nutritional credentials of cow’s milk.

Letter to the Editor

The Times

16 September 2021

Dear sir,

Further to the publication of your article on popular alternatives to cow’s milk headlined ‘What’s the best plant-based milk alternative – almond, soya, oat, potato?’ (11/09/21) we were concerned and disappointed to read some of the claims made around the nutritional and sustainability credentials of whole cow’s milk.

Contrary to the incorrect views expressed in the article, livestock in the UK are not routinely given antibiotics. Antibiotics are not fed to cows whose milk is destined for consumers and there is a stringent tracking process in place by milk processors to test for antibiotics in the milk. The assertion in the article that cows are fed chemicals is likewise incorrect.

The UK has some of the most sustainable production methods in the world. Indeed, 65% of farmland in the UK is only suitable for growing grass due to our maritime climate and grazing cows play a crucial role turning inedible grass into high quality, nutritious food, while actively managing the landscape. Dairy cows in the UK also largely graze rain-fed pasture, with rainwater making up 90% of the water needed to raise livestock in the UK.

Any sustainable food has to offer genuine nutrition and cow’s milk certainly does this. Milk is unrivalled in providing rich natural nutrition - from protein, calcium, B vitamins, iodine and more. It is an easy and affordable way for people to meet their daily nutrient intakes and maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

The benefits of cow’s milk in a balanced diet are clear, as are the sustainability credentials of dairy production in the UK. We hope the points highlighted above provide more clarity on these matters.

Yours sincerely

Paul Flanagan, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Dairy Sector Strategy Director

Dr Judith Bryans, Dairy UK, Chief Executive

Michael Oakes, NFU dairy board chair

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