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When is pasture milk really in pasture milk?


Pasture milk: a question of keeping
Grazing cows are common on milk packaging. Dairy farming is shifting more and more from the pasture to the barn. In larger farms, on average only every third cow goes to pasture. On the other hand, grazing cows are popular as a marketing tool because they express consumer expectations. According to a study by the University of Göttingen, around 80 percent of consumers have cows in pasture at least in summer.

It is no wonder that a growing number of dairies are trying to market their milk accordingly. And with success. In Austria, for example, hay milk already has a market share of 15 percent. The market share for pasture milk in Denmark is around 20 percent. In the Netherlands, almost 80 percent of the cows are in the pasture.

But what exactly does this term mean? And how can these differences be explained? Hay milk differs from conventional milk in terms of feeding, with pasture milk this applies to keeping. Hay milk comes from cows that were not fed with silage, but with fresh grassland feed, hay and grain. While, for example, there is a so-called hay milk regulation in Austria, which is controlled by independent bodies, in Germany the term "hay milk" is not regulated under food law any more than the term "pasture milk".
How much time a cow has to spend in the pasture before one can speak of pasture keeping is therefore quite controversial and has already occupied the courts in Germany. With the result that milk from cows that have been in the pasture for at least six hours on at least 120 days a year can be marketed as pasture milk, provided that these criteria are also stated on the packaging.

While numerous providers are based on this minimum requirement, the other criteria are often regulated very differently. For example, the question of whether there are also guidelines for animal husbandry in winter, how the animals are fed away from the pasture, whether genetically modified feed can also be used and who controls whether these rules are actually observed.

Here, clearly defined product labels can create more transparency for consumers. The pioneer in Germany in this regard is the “Pro Weideland - Deutsche Weidecharta” seal of quality, which was launched in 2017 and with which the State of Lower Saxony is promoting pasture keeping and remunerating dairy farmers for their contribution to animal welfare and the conservation of grassland. It is based on a broad alliance of agricultural, environmental and animal welfare associations, science and politics and supplements the above-mentioned standard of 120 days with six hours of pasturage each with the following criteria:

- There must be 2000 square meters of permanent pasture per cow (including at least 1000 square meters of pasture).
- The animals' freedom of movement all year round must be guaranteed.
- The cows may only be fed GMO-free feed.
- Compliance with these criteria is regularly checked by the dairies and external auditors. - The participating dairies must undertake to collect and process the milk separately.

Appropriately certified pasture milk has been available at the Lidl discounter since the end of April 2017, and in REWE stores since mid-August. Linked to the Pro Weideland label, the goal for farms that produce pasture milk is to pay a premium of five cents per liter of milk in the future. The positive experience from Denmark and the Netherlands shows that consumers are generally willing to pay a premium for pasture milk.

A pasture milk label was introduced in the Netherlands in 2007. Since 2016, the Dutch pasture milk label has also been awarded to pasture milk products made abroad. German consumers can therefore find both labels on the cooling shelf. The Dutch pasture milk label also provides for at least six hours of pasture run on at least 120 days a year, but does not set any requirements, for example, on freedom of movement or GMO-free feeding. Whether the more sophisticated new “Pro Weideland” label will prevail and establish itself as the new standard for pasture milk will also depend on which products or which label the large supermarket chains include in the range. BZL / BZfE

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Video: Top pasture Mix for milk and meat production (December 2021).