One of the key traits of millennial consumers is that they are a highly values-driven generation.  

More than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about (source Barkley) and not only do they care significantly more about whether or not their food is organic than their non-millennial counterparts (source Boston Consulting Group), but despite many having little in the way of disposable income, they are nonetheless willing to pay a premium for products that fulfil these ethical briefs. 

But the question is how much of a premium? The recent news that the UK-based slaughter-free milk producer Ahimsa Dairy Foundation has been able to secure its future, following the purchase of organic land in Manton, Rutland, has reignited debate on the issue. The company sells its milk for around £4.50 per litre at a farmer’s market, or £3.50 per litre to its members, compared with Waitrose  Duchy Organic milk at £0.814 per litre. However, for Ahimsa, its milk is to be savoured –sipped rather than slugged — with the company identifying more with a pint of craft beer rather than its supermarket competitors.

The additional costs are a result of the need to put money aside to fund the retirement of their cows. Traditionally dairy cows are milked for five years, then slaughtered to make pet food. But the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation goes even further:  male calves are normally killed shortly after birth or sold for meat, but the Ahimsa dairy puts them to work on the farm; newborn calves are normally separated from their mothers, but they stay together as grazing partners at the Ahimsa dairy; cows are usually artificially inseminated, but Ahimsa cows are impregnated by bulls; Ahimsa cows are han-milked rather than by machine; and finally Ahimsa cows can choose between sheltering in a barn or grazing freely on organic pasture.

But money isn’t the only cost that needs to be taken into consideration. For opponents of slaughter-free milk, the environmental cost is considerable.  Cows are already the nation’s single largest source of methane, a greenhouse gas as much as 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A single cow has the same carbon footprint as the average car. According to a 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, the world’s 1.4 billion cows produce 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than the entire transportation sector, and retired cows will still be producing the same levels of methane, despite being replaced by younger models.

Slaughter-free milk producers recognise that this is an issue and have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint where possible: the male calves are used as a replacement for tractors for example, but it remains a significant obstacle to the wholesale adoption of slaughter-free milk — possibly an even greater one than its price tag.