Valio to introduce milk from free-range cows in Finland

Valio’s familiar milk cartons will be filled with milk from free-range cows from Valio’s freestall farms all around Finland. From mid-September, Valio’s one-litre and 1.75-litre milk, i.e. skim, low-fat, semi-skim and whole milk, will come from free-range cows. Milk is Valio’s largest category of consumer products, and that is why they are a significant addition to the more sustainably produced milk selection.

We source the free-range milk from Valio’s freestall farms, where the cows can move about, eat, and rest at their own pace. Free-range milk is produced on farms all around Finland. Free-range milk is homogenised and pasteurised in the normal way and tastes like any other fresh milk. It is packaged at Valio’s Riihimäki, Jyväskylä, and Oulu dairies.

- We want to make free-range milk available to everyone. That is why all of Valio’s familiar milk will come from free-range cows. Regular milk is our largest group of consumer products, and this will allow the milk shelves of Finnish stores to take a significant sustainability leap, says Valio’s Development Manager Mira Appelqvist.

Sustainability bonus encourages better animal welfare

Valio is owned by Finnish dairy farmers, and Valio pays out all of its operating profits back to them. Since the beginning of 2018, Valio has paid a sustainability bonus to the dairy farmers who have committed to higher standards of animal welfare. The bonus is currently two cents per litre of milk.

One of the requirements for the sustainability bonus is regular animal healthcare check-ups carried out by a veterinarian. In addition, dairy farms take good care of their animals hooves and provide anaesthesia, pain relief, and sedation during disbudding – the removal of a calf's growing horns. All the farms that produce free-range milk are naturally within the sustainability bonus programme.

The cows at Valio dairy farms are primarily grass fed, with supplements of domestic grains and turnip rape and rapeseed. The cows do not eat soy or GMO feed. The milk produced in Finland is always free of antibiotics. The cows are never given antibiotics as a preventive measure, but only as prescribed by a veterinarian.

- Animal welfare consists of many concrete actions the farms take every day. We believe that free-range milk will become the new norm. Sustainable milk production is not an option; it’s a condition for existence and a requirement of our operation, both ethically and economically. We will also continue to do development work with the farms. About two-thirds of Valio Group’s cows live in freestall barns, and that number continues to grow, says Appelqvist.