Can and drink labels represent political reform? Although such a question may provoke fierce debate during discussions of hypothetical “what-if” scenarios, the truth becomes much more clear in the real world. Recently, farmers representing the UK dairy industry blocked access to a number of dairy distribution centres, and even paraded cows into a number of supermarkets in order to protest the plummeting price of dairy which is occurring as a result of decisions made by many of the UK’s more prominent supermarket chains to purchase their dairy outside of the UK in order to receive better prices.
This action resulted in an agreement between a number of these chains, including Morrisons, Lidl and Asda, to increase the amount they would be willing to pay for UK milk. That being said, in order to preserve the livelihood of the UK’s struggling dairy industry, some politicians believe even more direct action is needed. This explains recent calls for country-of-origin labels on dairy products in grocery stores by politicians and activists who are passionate about defending the agricultural strength of the UK.
According to Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU, the plight of the UK’s dairy farmers is quite severe, making the arrival of country-of-original labels a welcome change, indeed. In a statement addressing the current economic climate for these workers, Raymond stated, “Cashflow is very tough. Farmers will be making decisions in the next two months. We need to get more money to farmers before they make a decision to leave.” Raymond and others believe that such labelling schemes would encourage a larger portion of consumers to purchase products from their own domestic suppliers, even though these particular items might be priced marginally higher than those from international dairy companies.
To believe that country of origin labels can appear overnight in supermarkets throughout the UK, however, would be shamelessly optimistic. After all, a barrage of legislative battles await anyone attempting to enact such serious reforms on a national level in the UK. That being said, those who have taken up the fight for UK’s dairy farmers are optimistic. According to Elizabeth Truss, the UK environmental secretary, “It is in everyone’s interest that supermarkets, caterers and the food industry have a secure supply of milk. That’s why I am pleased to see some supermarkets share the risk with farmers over price fluctuations.” It will be quite interesting to observe how these talks evolve over time.