Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
THE MILK INDUSTRY
THE production of milk in Great Britain is, next to the production of meat, the most important branch of our agricultural industry. During the past ten years it has attained gigantic proportions, and the old system of retailing milk to which water was frequently added, drawn from cows the great majority of which were stalled and fed within the precincts of our large towns, has given place to an improved system under which pure milk is dispatched, after production on the farm, direct from the rural districts to the distributor. The result is that the most valuable of all foods has been placed before the people of every class at a price within their reach, and under conditions which render it purer and safer than was formerly the case. What the consumption of milk was twenty-five years ago it is impossible to say, but in spite of the enormous increase in production, it is believed, upon the basis of careful estimates, that
the consumption per head of the population per day does not exceed a quarter of a pint. In America the milk industry has increased with still more rapid strides, and in the great States of New York and Massachusetts the consumption has been raised by leaps and bounds, until, e.g., the per capita consumption in the city of Boston has reached 1.33 half-pints per day. It is a curious fact that the milk consumption of the oldest city of the New World should be so much greater — in fact, nearly three times as great — as the consumption per head of the inhabitants of the city of Manchester.
The fact that milk production has been more profitable to the farmer than most of the other branches of his industry, has, of late, induced numbers of tenants to keep dairy cows and produce milk for sale, or manufacture butter or cheese. Increased production has in this way increased competition, with the result that prices have fallen. Hitherto the prices of cheese and butter have been regulated by the imports from other countries, but until recently there have been no imports of milk except in a condensed form, so that the price of milk, as retailed from day to day, has been regulated by home competition. Now, however, winter milk and cream are dispatched from Holland and Scandinavia, and although the quantity sent us is small as compared with the quantity we consume, yet it is evident that if a hundred thousand gallons can be sent successfully, it is probable that the trade will rapidly increase, and should this be the case the prosperity of the dairy farmer will decline more rapidly than it has hitherto done. We cannot prevent the importation of food from abroad, but we can control the system under which that food is imported, in order, first, that there may be no unfairness in the competition between our own people and the farmers of other countries; and second, that the food imported shall be pure and wholesome. In regard to the first point there is no fairness. The charges for conveyance of foreign milk and cream are infinitely less than the charges for the conveyance of the same materials at home; and as regards the wholesome condition of the milk sent us we have no guarantee whatever. Contagious diseases abound on the Continent, and farm workmen who have suffered from these diseases may be employed as milkers before they are fit for the work, while the fact that many of the cattle are diseased is sufficient to show that there is real danger in the consumption of imported milk which has not been sterilized before it is delivered to the consumer. We have remarked that home competition is intensified. The result is that prices have fallen to a figure which is without precedent, which means that unless dairy farmers combine to protect their own interests, prices will fall still further until no margin of profit remains. Nor is a reduction of price brought about by the action of the consumer, who in our experience has never sounded one note of complaint in this direction. It is owing to competition between the various competitors in the milk trade, 'so many of whom have striven to retain the retail price of milk and to pay the farmer, as they were accustomed to pay, such a sum as will enable him to conduct his business with success. By combination further reduction might be successfully resisted, but so long as action is isolated, the necessities of the milk trade resulting from, the keenness of competition will ensure a further fall.
The milk represented by the butter and cheese we import amounts to nearly 1,245,000,000 gallons, whereas the milk produced for consumption, assuming the cows in this country — 85 per cent. of which are in milk — to yield 400 gallons per annum, is 1,400,000,000 gallons. In a calculation made for a paper read at the Imperial Institute in 1895, I estimated the milk produced and sold as milk and in the form of butter and cheese at 1,405,000,000 gallons, so that the estimated yield on the basis above mentioned closely approximates to the estimated quantity consumed in some form or other. In the first place, the annual consumption of raw milk is placed at 13 gallons per head of the population per annum. The milk used in the manufacture of butter is estimated at 2.8 gallons to the pound; while the milk utilized in the manufacture of cheese is estimated at one gallon to the pound. If we add to this the milk used for condensing, and deduct 25,000,000 gallons, which I estimate to be the quantity displaced by the adulteration of whole milk with separated milk, we get the total to which we have already referred. Now, it is evident upon the face of these figures that we must necessarily import both butter and cheese in order to provide for the requirements of our people; at the same time, we are also shown that we have an enormous market if we can only provide the material for it. That material we should largely provide if the conditions were equal, but the foreign producer is assisted by defective British legislation, and by the unfair action of the railway companies, who carry his produce to the disadvantage of the English producer. There is no doubt that the consumption of milk will immensely increase, and the more the people realize that it is the most wholesome as well as the cheapest food in the world, the more readily will they increase their daily consumption. If' they are shown, as they should be, as often as possible, that while a large proportion of the solid matter of meat is absolutely indigestible, and that apart from this there is considerable waste as between the joint purchased and the joint consumed — every particle of the solid matter in milk is digestible in the highest degree — they will be able to appreciate the fact that the one food is not only more valuable in the sustenance of mankind, but infinitely cheaper, pound for pound.
The cost of production of milk depends upon various circumstances, the rent of the land and its quality, the cost of labour and the cost of food. It also depends, particularly in winter, upon the manner in which the food is selected and utilized. Generally speaking, dairy cows graze in summer, grass being occasionally supplemented — and this is extremely wise — by the addition of cotton cake, grains, or meal, whereas in winter a common ration is chaff, pulped roots, with cake, meal or grains mixed and given, after heating for some hours, at the rate of so many pounds per day. The cost of the production of milk, then, depends upon the cost of the production of the hay, straw, roots, or whatever is grown upon the farm, as well as upon the cost of the purchased foods. It follows, therefore, that in producing milk, one of the chief objects of the dairy farmer should be to grow heavy crops of those materials which are consumed by the cow, and of which hay, straw, and roots are the chief in winter, and grass in summer. To this question, however, we cannot' devote any space. It is, nevertheless, clear that those who feed upon a principle which has been found to succeed in practice, obtain the best results. They recognize that the cow needs the necessary material to maintain the heat of her body, to provide for the waste of tissue which is perpetually going on, and for the manufacture of the solid materials which are present in milk, and in consequence they compose a ration which includes the necessary proportion of albuminoids, which they obtain by using such foods as cake, beans, peas, vetches, or various meals with liberality. There is no doubt that the cost of production plus the cost of conveyance and the supply of railway churns closely approximates to the summer price of milk, which is perhaps upon the average no higher than 6d. a gallon, a great deal being sold below this figure.
We have referred to the system of adulteration which is now so widespread, and which is increasing from month to month. The Centrifugal Cream Separating Machine, excellent as it is, has become, in some hands, a medium for the distribution of adulterated milk. When skilfully used, separated milk can be mixed with whole milk to a large extent and sold to the consumer without any fear of detection and punishment, and the reason is obvious. There is no standard of quality, and so long as a sample of milk satisfies the requirements of the public analyst it usually passes muster. The analyst is generally liberal-minded and generous, and in the absence of a definite law he frequently permits individuals to escape who ought to be severely punished. An average sample of good milk, from whatever part of England it may be taken, contains at least 3.4 per cent. of fat and 12.3 per cent. of total solids, but so long as a sample contains 2.75 per cent. of fat, and is not otherwise suspicious, it generally passes muster. There is practically no milk the produce of a well-fed herd of cows which contains at any time less than 3 per cent. of fat, but there are thousands of herds in which the average milk contains from 3.5 to 5 per cent. It is perfectly easy, therefore, to obtain milk of good quality, and by mixing it with separated milk to produce a mixture which, if analyzed, will be found to contain more than 275 per cent. of fat.
It has been urged by various responsible bodies that a standard requiring milk to contain 3 per cent. of. fat should be fixed by law. I have myself urged that it should be raised to 3.25 per cent., and for reasons which are easily given. The trade insists that farmers as well as members of their own body would be frequently fined in consequence of the fact that milk occasionally falls below the proposed standard. It. sometimes does fall below that figure in the case of individual cows, but a just law would provide that the owner of a single cow should be allowed to appeal to her, a sample of her milk being taken direct by the analyst, or in his presence. As regards the farmer, however, the matter is entirely different. It is in his power to select his cattle, to dispose of producers of poor milk, and to replace them with producers of rich milk, which are common enough; but no such steps are taken by the farming community to-day simply because the law does not control the quality of milk, and so long as anything will suffice which is passable, farmers cannot be expected to take trouble which will not increase their receipts. By the aid of recent inventions, farmers and milk-sellers alike are able to test a number of samples of milk in a few minutes, so that there would be no excuse for the distribution of a sample containing less fat than the standard required. If the present system is allowed to continue, the whole milk trade will degenerate into more or less fraudulent competition connived at by the authorities in power. If there were no precedent for the proposal which has been made, it would be more difficult to urge its expediency, but standards exist in many parts of the world — in America in particular; and it is remarkable that in Boston, Massachusetts, where the consumption of milk is greater than in any part of England, the standard is higher than in any other city in the world. After myself investigating the question in America, and being shown by those responsible for the conduct of the law that the consumption of milk as well as its quality has immensely increased since the institution of a high standard, I am satisfied that, bearing the above suggestions in mind, we should benefit the dairy industry of England in a high degree by instituting a standard for ourselves.