Hyndman September 1919

The Scandal of our Milk Supply


Source: Nineteenth Century and After, September 1919, pp. 554-566;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.


The indifference of the mass of our people about their own food supply is one of the most surprising features of our social life. At the time when, to my certain knowledge, we were threatened with a very serious shortage, approaching to starvation, in our most important necessaries of life, I went several times into the country to address the inhabitants of large cities on the dangers ahead of us. Where I had invariably spoken to crowded audiences before, the halls were scarcely filled. Apathy ruled supreme. Others had the like experience. The workers were getting good wages, they were working overtime, soldiers were profitably billeted in the district, and altogether the population was better off than it had ever been. The future did not concern them. Only when they were forced to stand for hours in queues and were then often unable to get supplies, only when the winter weather made this waiting really painful and injurious to the mothers, and to the home in every way, did they at last begin to wake up. Then there were signs of rioting, and vigorous demands arose for registration and rationing. In London it was the same story. Nothing but direct personal privation could move people to claim that the existing chaos should be reduced to some sort of order.

All this being so, it is clearly no easy matter to rouse a determined agitation about milk. Yet, beyond all question, milk is, in many respects, the most important of our foods and the one of which we ought to be able to secure the most satisfactory supply. It has been officially stated, with exceptional force, and frequently repeated, that milk gives the largest amount of nourishment for human beings that can be derived from vegetables; more for instance, than can be obtained from any sort of meat. And after the cow has provided this admirable sustenance, during the whole of her beneficial milking period, her utility has not even then, disappeared, for she can be fattened and consumed as a portion of the none too plentiful home-grown meat at our disposal. The cow, in fact, is providentially placed on this planet in order to do our digestion for us, and thus to provide us, for years in succession, with the means of sparing our powers of assimilation, which we might otherwise dissipate on lentils and similar unpalatable provender. But what is true of us adults is still more obvious in regard to children and nursing mothers. Milk is for them both a personal and a national necessity. Good pure milk and plenty of it. Even doctors, and other ordinarily disputatious experts, are of one mind on this: without an ample sufficiency of milk the coining generation can never satisfactorily come. By neglecting milk we cut, therefore, at the roots of our national life.

Moreover, our own island is our only source of supply. There is no effective competition here. Desiccated milk and condensed milk are well enough in their way, but it is not a good way. At its best, these will not take the place of pure milk, fresh from our own cows. Farmers have, consequently, a geographical and territorial monopoly. Moreover, our climate and soil are exceedingly well suited to dairy farming, while there is a great demand for every description of dairy produce in all parts of the country.

There is therefore, no reason whatever why we should not have in Great Britain an ample quantity of milk – a supply large enough to meet all the requirements of our people on a generous scale. That is beyond dispute.

Yet, in a recent memorandum printed by the Food Ministry on the subject of milk, we find the following official statement: – ‘There can be no doubt as to the unsatisfactory character of the milk supply at present.’ It is worth while to examine closely into the causes of this unfortunate state of things and to decide to what extent it may be promptly remedied. So far as the evidence has come before me, I am fully convinced that the existing arrangements are nothing short of chaotic; and, to judge from the proposals recently submitted to the Consumers Council, by capable milk-producers, the farmers themselves are now of that opinion.

The case is urgent. For the supply of milk is relatively decreasing. The quality of the milk is acknowledged to be very bad. The need for a better supply is universally admitted. Increased cost of labour, serious shortage of cattle food, and lack of skilled milkers tend also to increase prices all round. At the same time, the high rate of purchase commanded by young female calves, when their free slaughter was permitted without control, naturally induced farmers to sell at once. They thus relieved themselves of the difficulty of feeding the calves, but they depleted their herds and curtailed the future milk supply considerably. Yet, without this, there had been a great reduction of the number of cows in proportion to the population, amounting to not less than 121/2 per cent. between 1871 and 1914. So that any further loss becomes a very serious matter indeed, even after allowing for the possibility that the general milk-bearing power of the cows has grown in the interval.

It is commonly supposed that the crisis thus created is due to the War. But that is not the case, as the following official statement of the Astor Committee on the Production and Distribution of Milk proves:

The inquiries made by the Committee and their previous knowledge on the subject showed that the average consumption of milk by infants and children before the War was entirely inadequate to their physiological needs. The total supply available allowed for the average consumption of rather less than 1/2 pint [later figures say 1/4 pint] per head of the whole population per day throughout the year, while among working families the average consumed per head was reported to be less than two pints per week.

The figures are so important and reflect so seriously upon our agricultural policy for more than forty years before the War that I summarise them from the Memorandum of the Milk Control Board. In 1871 the population of Great Britain was 26,100,000; in 1914 it had reached 41,700,000 – an increase of 60 per cent. Within the same period the number of cows and heifers had increased no more than 40 per cent; while the total value of imported dairy products had risen from 10,280,000 to 38,203,000. Thus the imports of dairy produce had grown to the extent of 270 per cent. as against an addition to the population of only 60 per cent. Well may the official Memorandum say that there is a wide field in which home dairy products could supplant imported products. Now that our financial position has been completely changed by the War and we have become a debtor nation instead of largely a creditor nation, it is of crucial importance that we should at once pay attention to our powers of production of food, and especially of milk and milk products in this island.

But here is a passage dealing with the subject from the point of view of the national health:

Medical authorities are of opinion that the consumption by children between the age of 1 and 5 years could be increased with very great advantage to the health of the population .... The quantity of milk required to provide for children the amount allowed under the Ministry’s Priority Scheme is 657,000 gallons per diem. If all children affected by the scheme (i.e. those up to 6 years of age) are to take their priority quantities, more than two thirds of the liquid milk supply would be absorbed, leaving only 500,000 gallons per diem for the rest of the population, i.e. 0.1 pint per head per diem ... In practice there is no doubt that a very large number of children do not get the quantities of milk as laid down in the Priority Scheme. In many industrial centres there are whole streets which take no fresh milk at all.

From every point of view from which we may survey the milk problem it is consequently manifest that in order to secure an adequate supply of fresh milk for the people and above all for the children the amount of the production must be largely expanded.

As matters stand to-day we are entirely at the mercy of the farmers. They, of course, do not go into the milk business as philanthropists, or as trustees for the nation, in the matter of the supply of this most important necessary. They produce milk so long and in such quantity as they can obtain what they regard as a satisfactory profit. If, however, labour as a whole becomes much more costly, as it has – if grass is far from abundant, as owing to the drought it is – if concentrated food is insufficient and expensive, as it has become – if, in addition, skilled milkers, who have to work early and late for seven days in the week, are harder and harder to come by (cows are seriously injured by untrained milkers) – and if the mangel-wurzel crop is a failure, as a failure it has been – then obviously, over and above the ordinary troubles incident to dairy farming, there are exceptional reasons for the present shortage of supply even in summer, and a growing need for dealing with the whole problem on a much wider basis.

Being at the mercy of the farmers, there is only one way by which in ordinary tunes we can, through them, obtain a larger supply: that is by guaranteeing to them a higher price of for their milk. Here, nevertheless, we are in a vicious circle: First the rate to be paid is not governed by the requirements of the best farmers in the business, but by those of the worst. We are thus driven to subsidise inefficiency, in order to obtain quantity. Then, when the necessary higher price is guaranteed, the antagonism between the producers and the consumers, between country and town, takes on a very acute shape. Consumers naturally denounce the whole farming class as trading upon their necessities; and the working-class parents and other persons dependent upon wages and fixed salaries cannot afford, at the higher prices, to get the milk needed for their children. This last fact led during the War to a priority order by the Government, authorising the distribution of milk at a low price, or gratuitously, to necessitous children and nursing mothers, thus entailing a charge upon the ratepayers, or the community at large, in order to preserve the national health and prevent the physical deterioration of the rising generation.

When once, however, the need for State and Municipal intervention is recognised, it is clear that such intervention is as important in peace as in war; and it amounts, virtually, to defraying a large portion of the extra price paid to the farmers out of the public funds, local or national, in order to encourage them to produce. Hence, assuming this policy to be continued, we are manifestly approaching the complete control and organisation of milk by the State. The question to be decided is, how far shall this go in the direction of increasing and co-ordinating an ample supply for the 42,000,000 inhabitants of this island?

The Consumers’ Council, which represents by its elected delegates some 6,000,000 heads of families, or the great majority of the population, has more than once voted, with practical unanimity, that only nationalisation or socialisation, of milk production and distribution will solve the problem. We recognise nevertheless, that there are intermediate steps to be taken before this final stage can be reached.

Ample supply, then, is imperatively called for. But the quality of this greatly increased supply must be very different from that which we have been content to put up with so far. It has been established beyond the possibility of question that not less than 80 per cent. of our milk is so foul that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to desiccate it, and that, owing to this impurity, it will not keep without undergoing the process of pasteurisation, which itself is no guarantee and injures the quality of the milk. The danger to young children of drinking bad milk is obvious. In many cases it acts as a slow poison to them. For a country such as ours to go on in this hugger mugger fashion is disgraceful. But the public at large has not yet grasped the importance of the milk problem, the House of Commons has so lost confidence in itself that it neglects all matters of this social kind, the Government, after taking up the question seriously, dropped it again just at the time when it most required attention, and the Consumers’ Council cannot enforce its views upon the Administration. Under these circumstances, it is advisable to go a little into detail in the matter of the quality of the milk we daily consume, however disagreeable some of the facts may be.

First and foremost, comes disease in the milking herds. The chief of these is tuberculosis. The prevalence of this disease is admitted. Official reports estimate that 30 per cent. of our cows ‘react to the tuberculin test’; that the percentage is specifically high in stall-fed cows in towns; and that a considerable proportion of cases of non-pulmonary tuberculosis, especially in children, is due to the contamination of the milk supply with the bacillus of this disease. Active steps have been taken, both before and during the War, to cope with this danger at its source, by the slaughter of diseased cows, by more careful breeding, by strict measures tending to free herds from the disease. It appears also that the farmers themselves have awakened to the moving seriously in this direction. But when an official memorandum plainly states that there is a consensus of opinion to the effect that the cowsheds of the country are, as a whole, badly adapted to the keeping of cows and the proper handling of their milk, it is impossible to feel confident that, even in this matter of tuberculous cows, reforms are being introduced as quickly as they ought to be in the public interest.

Of the 80 per cent. of foul milk which we and the children are doomed to absorb daily for our sustenance, it is interesting to know that about 40 per cent. of the impurity is provided for us on the farm, about 20 per cent. on the railway, about 20 per cent. in the dealers’ hands, and about 20 per cent. in our own homes. That is the estimate of Dr. Orr, of Yorkshire. It is not reassuring. The farm, it will be observed, is responsible for nearly one half of the filth which occasions contamination when this ‘chaotical mixture approaches a fixture.’ And this is how it is done according to Professor Delepine of Manchester: The dirt falls into the open pail during milking, wet hands accentuating this unpleasant addition. Unsterilised milk pails do their share of befoulment. Unsterilised coolers take their turn. Unsterilised churns carry the pollution farther. Stale milk mixed with fresh milk finishes the job up. So far the farm.

Then the railway contributes its quota to the common stock of unseemly microbes. Here are the four principal facts: The milk vans are not properly washed. Not one refrigerated van is used for the conveyance of milk in Great Britain. Milk is often transferred from one churn to another on the open platform. The froth caused by the pouring is blown away by the milkman or removed by his dirty hands. This systematisation of impurity is obviously very effective!

Thereupon the dealer has his innings. Here we have ‘foul and unsuitable premises, unsuitable or inadequate equipment, exposure of milk, the improper handling of milk during retail delivery, and the use of dirty churns and cans.’

The balance of the mischief is done on the consumers’ own premises, and some authorities consider that household carelessness accounts for a larger percentage of contamination than the 20 per cent. allowed by Dr. Orr. About the 80 per cent. of befoulment as a whole, however, there is no difference of opinion.

A careful investigation of the milk supplied to 21 London Hospitals showed the following amazing results: The best milk supplied gave respectively 30,000, 42,000, 125,000, and 148,000 bacteria to the cubic centimetre. Seven other tests showed 1,045,000, 1,350,000, 1,350,000, 2,430,000, 4,000,000, 4,200,000, and 8,230,000 (!) bacteria to the cubic centimetre. Really high-class milk ought not to give more than 10,000 bacteria to the cubic centimetre!

In his summary of the Metropolitan milk supply M Sutherland Thomson writes:

The milk supply of London casts an ugly shadow on the intelligence and cleanliness of its educated population. One has to admit that the milk is ruinously dear, for you are paying for heavy deposits of dirt and dangerous deterioration.

Waggons and churns were both equally filthy. The men themselves who dealt with the milk spoke with disgust of the conditions under which they carried out their work. The manner in which the public is ‘protected’ makes a nice little story. Here it is:

My attention was drawn to a metal plunger which was suspended from a pillar on the platform. I was informed that it was the property of the platform. An elderly person who proved to be a milk sampler came along carrying a bag. He removed the plunger from the wall and placed it on the dirty platform. By his action the full circumference of the plunger was brought in contact with the slimy platform, which was a first rate breeding ground for bacteria. The plunger remained on the ground for a few minutes. It was then taken by the milk sampler in the direction of some churns of milk which turned out to be for his firm [the name is given]. Again he put the plunger on the dirty platform and after removing the lid of a churn he put in the plunger and mixed the milk. A sample was then taken, and this process went on until he had sampled quite a number of churns. I observed that for practically every sample of milk taken the plunger had a rest on the dirty platform, and in no case did I see any attempt to clean the instrument.

After this there is a general blending of the milk on the platform.

Thus we have quantity altogether insufficient, especially in winter, and quality abominably bad.

Is it possible to remedy these two crucial defects which together constitute a danger to the well-being of the people? The Government, at one time, undoubtedly thought it was, and set to work in a serious spirit to deal with the matter on a national scale. Unfortunately, in this as in other cases, the overlapping of various public departments and their mutual jealousies, helped by the vested interests whose profits seemed to be threatened, threw back the whole business into its previous anarchy. Many of the ablest officials in the Food Ministry, who had gained invaluable experience in the course of the investigations of the Committees, were removed to other work, or discharged altogether. The recommendations of the Committees themselves were thrown into the waste-paper basket and all genuine reformers were greatly discouraged. Lately, however, the whole subject has happily come up again from a rather unexpected quarter.

The farmers, the original delinquents, in the matter alike of quantity and quality of milk, are greatly alarmed. Not by the prospect of Government interference, which had become less threatening, nor by public agitation, which has barely begun, but by the possibility that a rival set of monopolists might bring them face to face with a very powerful combination of distributors in the great towns. In fact, so far as London is concerned, this has already become a formidable danger. The United Dairies established a very effective Trust for London distribution of milk, but they seemed likely to enter upon the further acquisition of farms on their own account. For the first time, consequently, in the history of their class, the capitalist farmers recognised that the consumers, who constitute the whole 42,000,000 of us, have a direct interest in the quantity and quality of the milk which they buy; that, in fact, farmers are performing, however imperfectly, a social as well as an individual function; and that the buyers as well as the sellers have to be considered – are entitled, in short, to have a say with regard to the production as well as the distribution of milk. I welcome the association of the farmers into a sort of milk union, because, in all matters where the great body of the community is concerned, it is much easier to deal with, control, or acquire for public purposes, industries or trades which are in the hands of companies, associations or combines than to negotiate with individuals.

Now, as a consequence of this move on the part of the farmers, and the elaborate proposals set forth by their representatives, to the effect that producers and consumers should combine in amity to take order with the obnoxious trusts of the distributors, the Food Ministry itself concocted a Memorandum which, in its original draft, gave the farmers far too much control. That is obviously wrong.

Here, however, is a step, by what may fairly be looked upon as the most conservative element in Great Britain, towards some co-ordination in the national interest, from the national point of view. How extremely difficult it is to arrive at any satisfactory settlement, without much more thorough national control than has yet been accepted, is clear from the fact that it is practically impossible to arrive at the real cost of production of milk on the farms. British farmers, as a rule, keep no books. The cost of production of their milk is inextricably mixed up with their cost of production of other things. Three members of the Consumers Council who were specially chosen to look into this important point (Mrs. Cottrell, Mr. Watkins and Mr. Wilson) were unable, after a long period of investigation, to arrive at any definite decision: the prime cost of a gallon of milk on the spot, as submitted varying from 8d. to 3s. according to what were little better than guesses made by the farmers themselves. How confusing such discrepancies are when it comes to fixing prices, in order to stimulate production and provide a sufficient supply is apparent. But once the producers admit that such a greatly increased supply is imperatively necessary for the benefit of the whole country, and that they are in a sense trustees in this important matter, the whole problem takes a wider scope. It is then incumbent upon the Government, represented by the Milk Department of the Food Ministry, to take care that the food-stuffs required for the cows in order to give an adequate supply all through the year, in winter as in summer, shall be available from home, or foreign sources. The anarchy of unregulated individualism may thus be brought into something approaching to order, during the transition period through which we are now passing; and it is possible that producers and consumers, farmers and milk-drinkers, may learn to lie down together, until the interests of both are finally harmonised in the Co-operative Commonwealth.

I should not be so hopeful of this happy consummation but for the fact that other countries and cities have been compelled to pay close attention to the milk business, and that, in spite of our curious inability to march with the times in relation to our food supply, events are forcing the hand of our Government and the reactionists. Taking the smaller country and its chief city first, it will be found that a complete revolution in the milk trade was effected some time ago by a private company in Denmark. When it started operations, the Copenhagen Milk Supply Association found the milk supply ‘in a shocking condition, probably even worse than that of some of our English towns at the same period and later,’ writes Sir Rider Haggard in his book on Rural Denmark. All the abominable and almost systematic contamination described as prevailing in Great Britain to-day, in town and in country, existed in Copenhagen, and foul milk was rule there as it still is here. The infant mortality was consequently very high. A single individual backed by others to work to remedy this deplorable state of things so far as one Company could do it. The precautions taken with the thousands of gallons of milk distributed daily through this agency were such that purity was guaranteed, so far as this is possible. Methods of distribution were as thoroughly preventive of contamination as the arrangements in force on the farms ‘tied’ to the Company. The regulations for the feeding of the cows on the farms in summer and winter were most elaborate, special rules being laid down for cows whose milk was intended for children; their cleanliness in every particular being insisted upon to a degree that would astound an English farmer. Similarly with the milkers, the sanitary and lighting conditions of the milking sheds were excellent, the treatment of the milk immediately after milking by passing through a clean linen sieve as well as through a refrigerating apparatus was all that it should be. For this latter purpose the farmer supplying the Company ‘must always have in store a fresh supply of ice of at least 30 lbs. of ice to every 100 quarts of milk’ and was obliged by his contract to use a special refrigerator.

The like meticulous care was taken in the transport of the milk to the city depots and in its distribution to consumers. Small quantities of the best milk were always available for the workers. Notwithstanding all these elaborate and expensive precautions the milk and cream from these dairies were sold at a profit in Copenhagen, at the time these details were obtained, at one half the price they were sold in London, though the price of milk then in our Metropolis was no more than 4d. a quart.

I cite this instance of Copenhagen as showing what may be done, even by private effort, for a portion of the population. Similar attempts have been made on a smaller and less efficient scale in this country; but nothing has been done to prevent the sale of filthy milk and no encouragement is given to the production and distribution of pure milk. The recommendations of Dr: Delepine to the Corporation of Manchester on the conditions essential for ‘promoting the cleanness and keeping quality of cows’ milk’ are in accordance with the system described above; and these specially insist upon the importance of keeping the cows as well as the milkers, the general surroundings, the strainers and the vessels used very clean, with persistent sterilisation of the pails and the maintenance of a cool atmosphere. In short, there is a consensus of opinion as to the precautions which ought to be taken for the purpose of preventing the addition of filth to the milk on the farms; but there is no power to enforce them for us.

The Report of the Mayor’s Committee on milk made on behalf of the City of New York is the most complete document that I have seen in connexion with the subject. It was published only eighteen months ago – early in 1918.

Far greater care is taken in every way to ensure the provision of pure milk for the people of New York than is the case anywhere in Great Britain. Under the regulations of the Department of Health thus runs the amended regulation of June 28, 1917: ‘Unwholesome, unclean, watered, or adulterated milk, skimmed milk and cream, and skimmed milk, cream, butter or cheese made therefrom; possession and sale prohibited.’ The restrictions imposed are most elaborately set forth, and the term ‘adulterated’ is given so wide a significance that under this heading a great proportion of milk sold in London would be condemned. The milk of New York is divided into three sections, A, B and C. The first of these is of the best quality specially adapted for infants and children and may be taken as practically pure milk. The second is quality B, which appears be much better, according to the specifications, than milk ordinarily sold in this country. The third grade C is to be used for cooking and manufacturing purposes only. Milk of this C quality may be taken as a sample of London milk.

It is impossible to give here more than a few points from this weighty statement. The Report strongly emphasises the great value of milk as a food, especially for children. Milk and milk products have a dietary value far greater than can be expressed by their protein and energy contents. Because of its nutritional value and particularly because of its growth-promoting value, milk is the ideal food for infants and children. For infants not breast-fed during the first year a quart of milk daily is necessary on the average, and for the second year a pint and a half. There is no food so economical for the nutrition of infants as milk. For children between the ages of two and six years, the daily ration of milk should be one pint a day as a minimum. (Dr. L. Emmett Holt, a leading specialist in children’s diseases) ‘Milk is the important single food for adults. It is more economical to produce than meat.’ ‘If it was a question of one or the other think it important that a man have milk rather than meat’ (Professor Sherman). ‘No family of five should buy meat until they have bought at least three quarts of milk. Milk is the cheapest form of protein you can get. It is the most complete and sufficient food that can be had. Around the dairy farms centres proper nutrition of a nation’ (Professor Graham Lusk). To these observations the Committee adds the following remarks:

The food value of milk has been unappreciated by the public at large. For infants it is not only a convenient food, but because of the presence of so-called vitamines or growth-stimulating substances, it is vitally necessary for the development of infants and children. Its value as a food for adults is just beginning to be appreciated.

But all this assumes that the milk supplied is cheap and of good quality. Rise of price affects consumption and child health at once, as if does in London. Thus:

The price of milk is of vital importance to infants and young children. Infants and children are dependent upon milk. Children under two years of age deprived of (liquid) milk do not thrive. High prices in New have resulted in changing the diet of young children in the poorer parts of the city from milk to other things, or from milk of high grade to milk of lower grade, with consequent injury to their health

When a plentiful supply of good milk was obtainable, the largest demand for the ‘A’ quality of milk, which was practically pure but dearer, came from the working-class quarters.[1]

The important question of fixing the price of milk for the coming winter’ season in Great Britain has been exhaustively investigated, within the past few weeks, by the Consumers’ Council, represented by a strong Sub-Committee. Here, as before, the great difficulty was to obtain a trustworthy statement of the real cost of producing a gallon of milk, the happy-go-lucky estimates varying very widely. Last winter the price allowed to the farmers was 2s. 3d. a gallon, and admittedly the farmers made excellent profits on that basis. This year the costs of production have risen all round. The Consumers’ Council, therefore, unanimously recommended that during the winter the high price of 2s. 8d. a gallon should be allowed to farmers. That price to them would entail a retail price of 1s. a quart to consumers, which means that the poorer classes would, to a large extent, be deprived of milk. But the farmers demand a still higher price for their product, though 2s. 8d. is three times the amount they received per gallon before the War. There seems a likelihood that, supported by the Board of Agriculture, they may succeed in getting the price, in spite of the protest of the Consumers’ Council, raised to 3s. or even more. That is a very serious matter for the whole people in the coming winter months, and I do not see how we are to avoid a considerable subsidy for the supply of nursing mothers and children if the health of these ‘trustees of posterity’ is to be even reasonably maintained.

That is how matters stand at the time of writing. Meanwhile, practically no steps are being taken to increase the supply or to improve the quality of our milk. Once more the opportunity for dealing with this most important problem in such wise as to benefit the entire nation is before us. To do this, however, we must recognise:

1. That competition in supply and distribution has utterly failed to provide the public with sufficient quantities of milk at a reasonable price.

2. That competition has not induced the producers and purveyors to secure the public from the great dangers lurking in disgustingly filthy milk.

3. That competition among the farmers as producers, and the distributors as sellers, gives no assurance whatever that we shall be any better off in the future than we have been in the past, even when the distributors have been combined into a complete monopoly in London and elsewhere.

4. That the collection of the milk from the farms as well as its conveyance by rail calls for complete reorganisation and supervision.

5. That the methods of production on the farms, including the careful and efficient feeding of the cows, the suppression of disease, the enforcement of cleanliness while and after the cows are milted, are together a matter of national concern, and should be nationally controlled and ordered in the public interest.

6. That the entire milk supply, its production, conveyance and distribution, should be considered and dealt with as portions of one great business and not be left to separate and overlapping departments, which can only result in disaster.

7. That, following upon this co-ordination, the Food Ministry should be empowered by Act of Parliament to deal nationally, municipally, and generally with the whole organisation of milk production, quality, supply and distribution on an expanded basis of the Report of the Astor Committee.

8. That the mere guaranteeing of a fixed price to the farmers as producers is not a satisfactory or sufficient means of ensuring increased production of milk, even when this fixed price is agreed between representatives of farmers and consumers and is confirmed by the Government.

9. That serious attention should at once be directed therefore to securing for the farmers an adequate supply of feeding-stuffs for their cows as well as to the means of ensuring to the farmers efficient well-paid labour so far as is possible.

10. That all the powers of a very far-reaching character conferred on the Local Government Board by the Milk and Dairies (Consolidation) Act, 1915, should be transferred to the Milk Control Department of the Ministry of Food.

11. That model Government dairy farms, at which the best methods are applied and accurate accounts are kept, should be established in different parts of the country where farmers may learn how to improve their system in relation to the varying qualities of soil they have to cultivate.

These farms should also be used to train skilled dairy folk.

There are, of course, many other matters to consider, and I am writing from the consumers’ point of view. But from the evidence I have heard, and all the reports I have read, I am more convinced than ever that, unless the people and the Government regard this whole question of the production and distribution of milk as a matter of national concern and State regulation, there is little prospect of improvement either of the supply or of the quality. The grounds upon which the Consumers’ Council voted for nationalisation of the milk supply seem to me unshakeable.

H.M. Hyndman


1. ‘The distribution of milk is a public service, which to be put on an economic basis requires public regulation to the end that all unnecessary services even of a competitive, kind may be eliminated.’ [Report of Mayor’s Committee, New York, p.53.]