UK's most climate-friendly school milk?

Mauchline, East Ayrshire, Scotland

Could school children in East Ayrshire be drinking the most climate-friendly milk in the UK?

Just weeks before COP26, East Ayrshire council has taken the bold decision to revolutionise the way it provides school milk, drastically reducing the carbon footprint of the service, and cutting out 400,000 single use plastic bottles every year from the council’s waste output.

How did they do this? By awarding the procurement contract to Mossgiel Farm, an innovative organic dairy, just 40 minutes outside of Glasgow.

Bryce, the owner of Mossgiel Farm, found himself challenged by falling milk prices and the dominance of big dairies in 2015. "I honestly didn't think that it would be possible to be sustainable and run a viable business at the same time", he says. But he took the plunge and pivoted to become organic and 100% grass-fed, reducing his farm’s financial inputs and carbon footprint by moving away from imported feeds, locking away carbon on the farm’s lush grasslands, and developing cutting edge pasteurising techniques in his own dairy.

He's now a passionate advocate for fair and sustainable farming. This move, he says, enabled him to build up a unique selling point around his high environmental and animal welfare standards. Along with innovations like vending machines and electric vehicles, it's what helped him win the procurement contract supplying school milk across East Ayrshire with the support of the Soil Association's Food for Life scheme, and his high quality product has opened up a market with coffee shops too.

With a dairy on site providing an outlet for small farms across the local area, Bryce now plans to get his enterprise off grid by 2025.

Bryce's work has won him warm words from his partners. Mark Hunter, Strategic Lead Food and Facilities Support, East Ayrshire said, "We are delighted to welcome Mossgiel Dairy as one of our newest suppliers; they are passionate about sustainability and reducing carbon emissions and when supplying milk to our schools they are setting a positive example by using electric vehicles for deliveries. This proactive approach supports our collective commitment to tackling climate change."

And Sarah Duley, Head of Food at Soil Association Scotland, echoes this: “The work that East Ayrshire Council and Mossgiel Organic Farm are doing together has created a new benchmark in school meals. This kind of partnership between local government and local producers demonstrates the power of public food to drive a positive transformation in food production and supply. This approach goes a long way towards creating a more sustainable and secure food system that benefits pupils, planet and producers.”