Figuring out where to buy raw milk in the UK can be confusing.
By law, it can’t be sold by a third party seller (such as a shop or supermarket) but must be sold directly by the farmer to the customer – this can take place at the farm itself where the milk is produced, at markets or in a milk delivery service.
Raw milk can only be sold from specially licensed dairies that adhere to special labelling rules and undergo regular testing to check for harmful bacteria and disease.
Most people in modern times are no longer familiar with their local food producers; supermarket shopping has created a divide between farmers and consumers, and it can be tricky knowing where to look for a local supplier or where you can get your hands on some raw milk.
With the help of the internet, there are plenty of resources to help find the nearest raw dairy to you, or even to buy online.
But, you may be asking yourself, why buy raw milk in the first place?
And why can’t it be sold in shops?
Prior to the 1950s, everyone drank raw milk, but after a major outbreak of tuberculosis passed on from the cows to humans, untreated diary was widely restricted.
Most of the milk available these days is pasteurised – that is, heat treated to kill any harmful bacteria.
During the pasteurisation process, milk is typically heated to 63°C for 30 minutes, or 72°C for 15 seconds.
The high temperatures involved kill pathogens that can cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli.
It also creates uniformity in the product, but raw milk advocates argue that pasteurisation removes many of the health benefits found in dairy.
The British Food Standards Authority (FSA) warns that raw milk presents a risk of health complications and food poisoning, saying that it should not be consumed by those with weakened or undeveloped immune systems, including pregnant women, children, the elderly and those who are already sick.
Before the rise of pasteurised milk, one-quarter of food-related illness was caused by milk, but that number has now shrunk to 1% of foodborne illnesses, according to The Guardian.
Half of all milk-related food poisoning cases in the UK between 1992 and 1999, were the result of raw milk, although none of these cases resulted in death.
Despite these warnings, sales of raw milk are up in urban farmers markets.
“The fashion not so long ago was for cheap food,” Tim Jones of Lincolnshire Poacher told The Telegraph. “Now people want quality. They want to feel connected to the land.”
Thomas Cowan, a doctor from San Francisco, added that there may be an element of economics involved in the promotion of pasteurized milk:
“In order to produce raw milk, you need healthy cows, which precludes big business. You can’t raise a healthy cow on anything but pasture. The giant dairies keep cows on concrete and feed them grains, soya and sometimes even meat; they turn them into factory animals. And then the cows get sick. You couldn’t drink raw milk from those herds.”
According to raw milk proponents, there are a host of nutrients available in fresh dairy that don’t survive the pastreurization process:
- Raw milk is thought to have 10% more vitamins and at least 25% more vitamin C, which is vulnerable to heat. It also aids in the absorption of minerals, such as calcium.
- Raw milk contains nutritional whey proteins and amino acids that are destroyed by heat.
- Raw milk drinkers are thought to suffer from fewer allergies than pasteurized milk drinkers.
- Raw milk contains enzymes to make it more digestible. It can alleviate lactose intolerance.
- Raw milk contains Omega-3 fatty acids, since the cows are grass fed.
- Raw milk contains healthy gut bacteria.
Most raw milk dairies in the UK are located in England and Wales.
Raw milk sales are legal in Northern Ireland, but there are no licensed producers there.
Sales are completely banned in Scotland, although some English and Welsh farms offer deliveries to addresses there.
There are small farms and suppliers that sell raw milk all over the country; Britain has around 200 registered suppliers.
Buying direct can be the best way of ensuring that you know exactly what you are getting – to see for yourself what conditions the animals are kept in and speak directly to the farmer about their approach to agriculture.
Visiting the farm is always going to be the best way to get the freshest possible food and drink, milk and otherwise, and you can make a day trip out of it, too!
Cutting out the middleman, such as the supermarket, often results in less packaging and better value, while making sure that the farmer gets a fair price for their product.
Farmer’s Weekly magazine has put together a map of farms selling milk directly to the public, including both raw and pasteurised milk suppliers.
If you are looking for raw milk only, try this website for a directory of sellers in the UK and Ireland.
Hook & Son
Phil and Steve Hook are a father and son team who have run Longleys Farm in Sussex since 1991.
Hook & Son’s Friesian Holstein cows are grass-fed, with the addition of organic sunflower, linseed, pea, bean and molasses into their diet.
They graze outside when weather permits, and move inside during winter. The farm is certified organic by the Soil Association.
Their shop sells and delivers raw milk, raw butter and ghee (clarified butter), as well as various pasteurised products.
Orders are typically taken several days in advance of packing and delivery, so it is necessary to plan in advance.
The farm offers a local milk round to residents in the Hailsham area, while a once-per-week delivery is available to people living elsewhere in England, Wales and most of Scotland.
National delivery requires minimum orders of 10 pints, so it is best for people who consume a lot of milk, or who can set up a shared order with their friends or family.
For national delivery, the milk is cooled to 2°C and packed in insulated cardboard and polystyrene (they are willing to take back and reuse the polystyrene) to maintain freshness – milk is packed in glass bottles for local delivery and plastic polybottles for long distance shipping.
Standing orders are available.
Unfortunately, due to an adverse result in their latest tuberculosis test, Hook & Son cows need to pass two more tests before their milk is certified as safe to drink; therefore they will not be able to sell raw milk until February 2019, according to their website.
Gazegill Organics is a family farm that claims to have worked the same land for 500 years.
Owned by the Robinson family, the farm keeps organic, free range, Shorthorn cows.
They have a strong focus on animal welfare and are part of the higher level environmental stewardship scheme with Natural England.
Their cows are kept outside on a natural pasture during the summer months, feeding on a range of different plant types, with the additional feed of non-GMO peas, beans and pulses in small amounts.
The dairy is in Rimington, near Pendle Hill, although the farm spans across the Pennine Lancashire and Yorkshire borders, according to their website.
The farm is licensed to sell raw milk, although they also supply a range of other organic products including their own meat, as well as deli products from other suppliers.
When it comes to raw milk, Gazegill offer a weekly, fortnightly or monthly subscription service in amounts ranging from 8 litres to 15 litres per delivery.
If you’re not prepared for a regular order, you can make a one-time order of raw milk (minimum 6 litres) or raw cream. Delivery is free.
Real Raw Milk
Real Raw Milk is a Cheshire-based family farm run by Andrew and Lucy Hollinshead.
They raise a variety of cow breeds (mostly Shorthorn) and sheep, selling both meat and diary.
They sell raw milk in one-litre or two-litre bottles, available at local events or by delivery.
For online orders, postage is free for orders over £60 and discounted for orders over £40.
One standout feature of Real Raw Milk is their raw milk kefir – a fermented drink and a potent probiotic!
They also sell a good range of raw dairy products, including cream, butter, buttermilk and Greek-style yoghurt.
Kimber’s Farm Shop
Kimber’s Farms and Farm Shop is based in Somerset and run by Paul and Ruth Kimber, with help from their children.
Not strictly an organic farm, they stick to traditional methods where possible, using fertilizers, herbicides etc., only when necessary.
Animals are fed on grown wheat, maize/grass silage and meadow hay.
As well as dairy cows, the farm has beef and veal cows, sheep, pigs, and a range of poultry birds.
The Kimbers raise Holstein, Shorthorn and Friesian dairy cows that are free to graze during the summer months, with some additional feed – though without the use of growth promoters.
Much of their milk is sold to Wyke Farms and Somerset Dairies, although they also sell their raw, unpasteurised milk directly at the farm shop, farmers markets and online.
Kimber’s sell a range of meat, hampers and groceries that come from their own farm as well as other suppliers.
Delivery is available on the mainland UK. Their raw milk is sold in 1L or 2L bottles and was awarded a gold medal by Taste of the West, 2015.
Straight From The Cow
Straight From the Cow keep a herd of only 35 milking Friesian and Montbeliarde cows, as well as beef cattle, pigs and chickens.
They operate out of Carpenters Hill family farm, in Worcestershire.
The milking cows are kept free-range and fed on grass during the warmer months, and on silage, or fermented grass, during the cold weather.
While they aren’t a certified organic farm, Carpenters Hill follow organic guidelines where possible, and do not use unnecessary hormones or antibiotics on their animals.
They also avoid using pesticides and herbicides on fields where the cows feed.
For local customers, milk is available for purchase directly from the farm, markets, and direct deliveries.
For customers across England, Wales and Scotland, raw milk can be ordered as a one-time delivery or a standing order with a minimum order of 12 pints.
It is packaged in plastic bottles and shipped in wool lined-boxes, with an icepack for freshness.
With all the controversy surrounding raw milk, it can be a struggle deciding whether to go ahead and try it or not.
One benefit UK customers have is that the FSA enforces regular and stringent testing on all registered raw milk sellers, to ensure the experience of trying unpasteurised milk as is risk-free as possible.
Whether you choose to build a relationship with your local famer or opt for the convenience of online delivery, raw milk is available all across Britain.