Thursday’s story about the raw milk vending machines in Poland attracted quite a lot of interest among Bovine readers. In fact it was the top story of the week with 1,383 page views as of Sunday morning. Which brings us ’round to today’s article, which likewise deals with raw milk vending machines, but this time in England. You may remember there was a bit of flap over there recently about a big store which had the temerity to install such a machine in one of its London stores. Well here’s more news arising from that self-same machine, which seems to still be dispensing raw milk, right there in the heart of London. And perhaps surprisingly, from a North American perspective, the London Bobbies don’t seem to have their knickers in a knot over that simple fact of life:
“The machine, nearly 6ft of solid, gleaming steel, sits just to the left of Oddono’s ice cream in London’s Selfridges. And is a mere Tunworth’s roll from the groaning cheese counter. Which seems entirely apt, as this magnificent monolith dispenses milk, the heart and soul of them both. But this is no run-of-the-mill dairy dullard; it’s a repository of raw, unpasteurised milk from Sussex – buxom, beguiling cowgirl rather than joyless, emaciated waif.
Plug in a few nuggets, put your glass bottle under the spout and out pours a whole litre of foaming, cream-rich delight. The first taste is a revelation, rich, bounteous and fulsome, like tasting real milk for the very first time. It’s impeccably clean and fresh, whipping through the mouth with lactic élan, and leaving nothing behind save a lingering, luscious sigh. It’s milk, Jim, but not as we know it.
‘I used to be part of an organic milk collective,’ says Steve Hook of Hook & Son, an organic dairy farm in Hailsham, East Sussex.
He pauses. ‘All that value, the work we put into producing excellent milk, was lost.
‘Then there were the minuscule margins from the supermarkets. We’d end up making about 1p a litre on your end price. It just wasn’t viable.’
Because the British dairy industry is in a parlous state, thanks to the low prices supermarkets, and large milk suppliers, pay farmers.
‘Prices are virtually the same as they were 20 years back,’ says Hook.
‘The supermarkets are happy to make a loss on staples like milk, just to get the customer coming through the store. But raw milk, in England and Wales at least, can only be sold direct from the farmer.’
Cut out the middleman and profits increase, while packaging is reduced. And then there’s the quality of the product itself….”
And as an added bonus, here’s a little video (via Raoul Bedi, on Support Michael Schmidt Facebook page) about buying raw milk from a vending machine in France: