Dairy company invests €7 million in ‘happy cow’ milk

Multinational dairy company Bel – known for its popular brands of Limiano, Terra Nostra, Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel cheese – has announced that it is ploughing €7 million into a project to ensure it manufactures its products from milk from “happy cows”.

The idea is simple – the company’s milk suppliers have to abide by at least 90% of a new set of rules and regulations to improve the life quality of their animals, thereby winning a ‘happy cow’ certificate which will see them receiving more money for their milk.

Not so ‘happy’ is the flip side of the new deal. Those who do not comply with the rules will no longer be allowed to supply Bel with milk at all.

But it’s an idea that has received a resounding thumbs up in the Azores where traditional dairy herd practices have not yet been abandoned.

Farmers on the islands told Público that the project will help them resist the temptation to become industrialised.

Milk producer Eugénio Câmara said: “My animals are left freely grazing 365 days per year, 20 hours per day. They are only taken indoors to be milked.”

But as Bel’s general manager in Portugal, Ana Cláudia Sá, told Público: “The rest of the world has industrialised, shutting its cows up in stables, and given them cereal and rations,” instead of alllowing them to eat grass.

Bel agrees that its ‘certified’ milk will mean a more expensive end-product, but it is confident that the ‘happy cow’ project will pay off.

It will certainly promote the traditional flavour of Azores’ milk at a time when the European Union is about to do away with milk quotas – a move that could see production increase 8% by 2024.