FRESH milk is now “impossible to find” in rural areas – especially those where there are a large amount of dairy cows – claims an activist for old-fashioned, locally made food.
This comes as farmers have been protesting over milk prices of just 300 euros for 1000 litres, which they say is not enough to make a living from (an agreement has been reached raising it to at least €340 until December, but many farmers say this still just represents cost price).
Writing on his blog on the website of magazine Marianne Périco Légasse cites the example of a man who was recently told in a local shop in the Cantal area “We haven’t sold any for years – people want UHT milk now.”
Mr Légasse adds that, as a regular traveller, he can confirm that “finding the precious white nectar is now a real struggle in certain regions…. It’s true in Normandy, Berry, Touraine, Alsace, Limousin, Brittany or Auvergne, Poitou or Savoie. You can find a litre of fresh milk in certain regional supermarkets, but very rarely in a corner shop in villages, where grocers and dairies have long since disappeared.”
He clarifies that he is not talking about actual lait cru - milk “straight from the cow” with no treatment - which he calls a nostalgic idea that has been “relegated to the museum”, but pasteurised milk from industrial producers, as opposed to UHT milk.
He adds: “There is nothing more depressing than to see people who live in countryside, where pretty herds graze in the meadows or under the apple trees, coming out of a big supermarket with a trolley filled with cardboard milk packs.
“Every day on the television we see dairy farmers who are desperate – even suicidal – and people go on, sometimes 500m from their farms, buying industrial milk without soul or flavour, often grey and thin, indifferent to their fate.”
What is usually known as “fresh milk” in most shops is pasteurised, meaning it has been heated to 72C for 20 seconds to reduce micro-organisms so it keeps longer. Usually sold in plastic bottles (rather than cardboard packs), which are often transparent, it keeps in the fridge for about a week, whereas UHT milk – heated to a high temperature to sterilise it - can be kept for months even unrefrigerated.
Though uncommon, unheated lait cru can still in fact occasionally be bought straight from the farm or even, in a few areas, from milk distributors filled up by a local farmer. It only keeps three days before it goes off, but fans say it has the best taste.