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Doors open for free range milk

Asda has become the first major UK supermarket to sell “free range” milk, according to the Guardian.

From mid-week the retailer will sell milk carrying the “pasture promise” logo, which indicates that the product comes from cows grazed outside for at least half the year (180 days).

Asda has worked with the Free Range Dairy Network to bring the new product range to their stores, the paper reported. The network licences the Pasture Promise logo, guaranteeing that the milk they are buying meets its minimum grazing standards.

“We hope that with customers being offered an active choice as to the kind of farming system they want to support, we will be able to grow the Free Range Dairy Network and recruit more dairy farmers who’ll be able to benefit from this simple farming method,” said the scheme’s founder Neil Darwent.

Free range milk was listed as the Next Green Thing in February’s Footprint magazine. This followed the launch of a new brand of free range milk with a distinctive black top. “Enjoy Milk” will be more expensive than standard milk but far less than organic – as such it’s being marketed as a halfway house for ethically-minded but price-conscious consumers.

The founders said they have launched the product to highlight the “innuendo” and “misleading marketing” that is now ubiquitous in the milk category. They estimate that more than a third (36%) of the milk on sale in the supermarket aisles is from cows that are indoors 90% of the time – and yet much of the packaging suggests they are happily grazing freely in fields.

However, Darwent at rival brand Pasture Promise has challenged Enjoy Milk’s definition of free range, which suggests only that suppliers must commit to “achieving the maximum days possible for grazing outside”. “It’s frustrating,” he said, “just as we are establishing a wider understanding of what free range milk is all about, others appear to be trying to capitalise on it without any clear definition of the farming system.”

Unlike free range eggs, there are no laws the legally define what free range milk production looks like.