In a climate where dairy farmers are going to the wall amid low milk prices and a severe drought, a new brand of Hunter milk – fresh from a local farm – has emerged.
Jason and Annie Chesworth, known for their award-winning cheeses, a cafe in Muswellbrook and a stint on My Kitchen Rules, have created a milk brand called Hunter Belle Dairy Co that tastes exactly like the dairy staple did years ago when it was fresh from the vat.
But they haven’t reopened the dairy they were forced to close in 2007 during a bad drought to achieve this. Instead they are sourcing their milk from a Singleton farmer who milks Brown Swiss cows.
Mr Chesworth said these type of cows created the perfect cheese and made milk with delicious cream on top.
They buy about 25 per cent of the farmer’s milk and pay 25 to 30 per cent above the market average.
If demand for Hunter Belle milk continues to rise the Chesworths will be able to purchase more milk from their supplier and perhaps even add additional suppliers.
My family has been involved in the dairy industry for over 130 years, you go back six and seven generations and we were milking cows down near the airport, and while we aren’t milking the cows ourselves anymore, we’re still fully fledged members of the Hunter dairy industry,Mr Chesworth said.
“[The farmer] wants me to be able to buy all of his milk, and if everyone gets behind it, there’s a good chance that could happen.
“There has been a lot of coverage about the milk market in supermarkets over the past couple of years and one of the biggest things that I’ve been critical of is that there hasn’t been enough choice for consumers.
“There’s been $1 a litre milk and other than that you’ve got milk that’s more expensive - but the consumer knows that it is made by corporate companies.
“People really struggle to pay that extra money for milk when it’s owned by a multinational company. The biggest feedback we’ve had is that it’s awesome that people now have access to our own local milk that we know is made by a local family business that supports farmers.”
Hunter Belle Dairy Co milk hit the shelves in Woolworths stores in Maitland and across the Hunter this month.
Some stores sold out in the first week, even when their initial order was doubled. Mr Chesworth said the supermarket giant was keen to support the local milk product and had given them a fair deal.
Each 2L bottle comes with a warning – shake well. It’s something Mr Chesworth has been doing for years.
“When you’ve grown up on a dairy farm and you’re use to unhomogenized milk, you give it a good shake to mix the cream through.”