According to Dairy UK
, fresh liquid milk is one of the defining characteristics of the British diet. In fact, the UK is the third-largest milk producer in the EU after Germany and France, and the tenth-largest producer in the world. Goat dairy products are also becoming increasingly popular among consumers. During the next fifteen to twenty years, the global population will continue to rise, placing unprecedented pressures on the supply and demand for the global food system. An increase in the more affluent middle classes will further impact the dynamic as a more western diet is sought around the globe. Competition for land, water and energy will intensify, compounded by the impacts of climate change.
The dairy industry provides products that promote health and wellbeing and plays an important role in sustaining rural communities, local food networks and land stewardship. That said, the industry faces significant economic, social and environmental challenges. The number of dairy farms in the UK has declined dramatically in recent years. The prices paid to farmers for their milk have been the subject of much media attention recently. Concerns have also been expressed about intensive dairy practices such as the amount of energy that is used, pollution of air, soil and water and inhumane treatment of animals. In addition, farming faces an ever increasing social challenge due to the lack of young people willing to engage in an industry which is seen as challenging with low rewards.
We have a proud history of working with the agricultural community to provide the highest quality dairy products that our customers expect while minimising our impacts. Through our Farming for the Future
programme we are working with suppliers and farmers to help them address the ethical, environmental and economic challenges they face in order to maintain a long-term sustainable and secure supply.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead the retail sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity. We recognise the integral role of animal health and welfare in sustainable food production and strive to continue progressing the highest welfare standards.
Our goal is to ensure that all our dairy products are produced to the highest standards of food safety and quality by farms that are operating sustainably. This commitment applies right across our business and applies wherever we trade.
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Over the years, we’ve taken significant steps to improve the sourcing of key raw materials in our products.
Dairy is very important to M&S. We source a range of fresh cheese and dairy products, in addition to those for use as ingredients in our products, from the UK and across Europe including France, Italy, Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.
We source in the region of 70 million litres of fresh milk each year from a dedicated and segregated pool of over 40 dairy farms who receive a price linked to the cost of production. Their milk is used in all of our M&S Cafés and for all our flavoured fresh milks and milkshakes too.
We have been widely recognised as a leader in supporting sustainable livestock practices. We have invested in research and innovation for many years in order to develop and improve farming practices that benefit farmers and the environment.
Our cheese range has also received a number of awards. For example, in 2012 we were named Champion Cheese Retailer and our Mature Cornish Cove Cheddar was named Supreme Champion Cheese at the Great Yorkshire Show. At the Nantwich International Cheese Awards we won 27 awards, making us Supreme Cheese Retailer 2010.
We have worked closely with our dairy farmers to improve our fresh milk offer to M&S customers, including developing leading farm standards and animal welfare, as well as producing milk with lower saturated fat than conventional milk. We introduced our M&S Milk Pledge Plus in 2000 which has guaranteed our farmers a sustainable price for our milk and delivered higher farm and welfare standards. The premium we pay above the average farm gate prices means that we have invested an extra £22.5m into farm gate milk prices for our milk products over the past fifteen years. And in 2011 we launched our Healthier Milk project to deliver ‘Better for You Milk’ with 6% less saturated fat than conventional milk.
Our approach to sourcing dairy responsibly focuses on:
Establishing and maintaining clear minimum sourcing standards
Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capacity within our supply chain
Supporting programmes which enhance the lives of people and communities
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
The ongoing development of the milk pool would not possible without extensive dialogue with farmers, our suppliers and the wider industry. We work closely with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
to ensure that we evolve our health and welfare standards, with FAI Farms
on sustainability outcome measures and research as well as with leading NGOs including the RSPCA
. We also liaise with industry organisations such as farming unions, Levy Bodies and expert consultants.