We have recently started making our own butter, yoghurts, soft cheeses and fermenting kefir for breakfast & spa guests. We wanted to source 'local' milk with exemplary welfare standards; so when the Sustainable Restaurant Association introduced us to the relatively new accreditation of 'Pasture Promise' it seemed that we had found what we were looking for. Immediately, what struck the team and our guests alike, is the taste. We talk about the ‘terroir’ of wine, that distinct flavour that comes from the land - climate, vegetation, geology. Pasture Promise milk has just such distinct variations, after all it is from the grass that milk derives its taste. Cotswold grass has very different qualities to that of grazing land in the Scottish Highlands. Not only that, we can taste the seasons ... spring grass maturing into the summer, and looking forward to the taste of autumn, followed by the winter change when the cows are fed on home-grown silage (fermented grass). That ‘terroir’ is lost when big dairies pool milk from thousands of different farms, stripping it of its provenance. And dairy should be about provenance.
Cow’s milk has been part of the western diet from the very birth of farming; more than 7000 years ago early peoples across Europe inherited a genetic mutation that gave them the ability to produce lactase, essential for the digestion of dairy. This adaptation introduced a new source of nutrition that would have sustained them through harvest failures and long winters. Those of us who still carry that gene should have no concerns about consuming dairy products, and health worries really can be put aside, as it is bursting with calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 & B12. Recently, we have seen a huge rise in plant-based alternatives to dairy, indeed at Thyme we offer almond & soya milks to guests. However, the accessibility of these alternatives, the rise in veganism, the fall in milk prices and the nagging doubt that milk is perhaps not as healthy as we once thought, has had a very significant impact on the farming landscape.
So, as you sit with your cappuccino enjoying the fairtrade beans that were ground to make it, it is worth pausing for a moment to think about where the milk comes from. The Free Range Dairy Network’s ‘Pasture Promise’ marque was started by Neil Darwent (BBC Outstanding Farmer of the Year 2014) & Carol Lever, as a response to the “get big or get out” messages coming from within the dairy industry. Neil is passionate about their mission to promote the value of pasture-based milk production: “Traditional, family dairy farms are disappearing at an alarming rate, as the pressure on farmers and cows to produce more for less grows and milk production slides towards a more intensive regime. It is vital that consumers are able to make a more informed choice about the provenance of the milk they buy, if we are to halt this trend. The Pasture Promise logo enables us to win urgently needed recognition and reward for those traditional, family farms and ensure that we can all continue to enjoy great tasting milk, from cows free to graze in fields, as nature intended.”
Each farm in the network is carefully selected and subject to independent yearly inspections, ensuring that:
- All milking cows are grazed for a minimum of 180 days a year (most will be outside for considerably more, when weather permits).
- Cows are only permitted to be on yards or in buildings for up to an hour before or after milking during the grazing season.
- Farmers are not permitted to shoot male calves at birth – a common practice in dairy breeds that are not suitable for meat.
Inspirational on every level, and most definitely on taste, we are celebrating the fresh flavours of our local milk with the summer fruit from our kitchen garden in the most delicious desserts. Try our ‘yoghurt panna cotta & berry compote’ and when you are shopping look out for the Pasture Promise logo, you really will taste the difference.