According to this article from the Financial Mail, dairy farmers in South Africa are under threat of extinction. So many small dairies are going out of business, it implies, that soon there will be no more cows to produce milk.
While I think this is an extreme interpretation of the statistics, it is true that small dairies are being pushed out of business by ever more competitive prices and rising costs. The tendency is however for big dairies to take over the small ones, until we have fewer and fewer independent producers. The danger is not that we will run out of milk, but that we will be dependent on a very few huge multi-national companies to supply us with all our dairy products. Good bye diversity, hello monopoly.
So choosing to buy from your small, local dairy is one of the better green shopping choices you can make right now. They may not be organic, they may not be the cheapest, but keeping them in business supports a diverse local economy, the heart of green living when you come down to it.
In the Western Cape we are lucky to have several independent dairies on our supermarket shelves. Most of them guarantee artificial hormone free milk (look for the rBST free logo on the bottle), some of them also offer good quality value added products such as yoghurt. So it’s no hardship supporting them. Check out Fair Cape, based near Durbanville, which offers free range milk.
If you live in an area that doesn’t have a local dairy supplying milk direct, inform yourself about the milks that are available to you. A little bit of internet research should show you which of the medium-sized South African dairy companies deserve to win your support.
While buying local and organic isn’t necessarily always the greenest option, as pointed out in this article, when it comes to South African milk it makes good sense, both for a strong local economy and for the environment.