Published: March 30, 2022 | Updated: March 30, 2022
Truly moo-ving experience as Heather Brown talks to Rachael Perrett of Meggy Moo’s Dairy
Welcome to our latest column from Heather Brown, Owner of Dorset Foodie Feed, the county’s top food & drink website.
Dorset Foodie Feed and Dorset Biz News work collaboratively to share food & drink news features across both our platforms.
Our aim is simple: to help support and encourage the food and hospitality sectors by bringing positive news stories to our respective audiences.
Heather’s column appears on the last Thursday of each month.
Dorset plays host to many dairy farms across the county, many of whom have been home to farmers for generations, supply many of our much loved cafes and restaurants and have won awards for their delicious milk.
All the local dairy farmers that I have chatted to very much love their job, working seven days a week to love and care for the cows that are an extension of their family.
More recently, I have noticed that farms are beginning to diversify from the traditional milk.
Some farms have created new innovative products, like Black Cow Vodka, creating a smooth and sustainable vodka from the leftover products from their dairy farm (and recently securing themselves a coveted BBC Food & Farming award for Best Drinks Producer).
Some dairy farmers have turned some of their milk into new products, like the Dorset Dairy Co with their award-winning Natural Strained Yoghurt, created as a way to bring in more revenue to the farm but the venture has been an amazing success.
Many have also added milk ‘vending machines’ to their land, providing fresh milk direct to customers 24/7.
Milk vending machines are a relatively new feature to the rural UK landscape and we are blessed in Dorset to have a good number across the county.
Often found in a little hut on the edge of the farm, these machines provide an environmentally-friendly way to get fresh milk direct from the farmer by refilling glass bottles for a small charge.
Meggy Moo’s Dairy have taken their milk vending machine and created a small farm shop around it, with a whole range of their own and locally sourced products to complement the fresh milk, including their own eggs, delicious hot coffee, ice cream and home baked cakes.
Meggy Moo’s Dairy have been dairy farmers for generations and their farm is a family business.
Their milk is award-winning and they have also created an equally award-winning range of dairy products to complement their milk.
I caught up with Rachael Perrett from Meggy Moo’s Dairy to find out more.
For someone who has never heard of Meggy Moo’s Dairy, who are you and what do you do?
We are the Perrett family and our farm is situated at the foot of Hambledon Hill in Shroton, Dorset.
Our herd of 180 Holstein-Friesian cattle are free-range and grass-fed during the grazing season, and eat home-grown forage during the winter months.
We give them the freedom to decide whether they prefer to graze outside or rest indoors, the choice is theirs.
We also use a robotic milking system so that they can decide for themselves when they feel ready to be milked.
By using this system, just 10-15 minutes of their day is taken up by milking, meaning they can spend the rest of their day grazing in the field, eating or resting in the barn with their herd mates. This system also conforms to the RSPCA’s Five Freedoms principles, which is important to us.
From our farm, we produce whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, a double cream, a sea salted butter and a range of milkshakes.
All our products are gently pasteurised but we do not homogenise.
Our products are sold from our farm shop and we also deliver to stockists and wholesale customers in Dorset and the New Forest.
What makes your milk and dairy products special?
Our products are very different to the mass-produced dairy products you will find in a supermarket.
Everything we produce is made using milk from our own herd so they have genuine provenance, full traceability and if you buy from the farm shop, zero food miles!
We pasteurise at a lower temperature than a commercial dairy would.
It is a much longer and more labour-intensive process but we believe that the milk retains more flavour because of this.
We also do not homogenise, so the fats within the milk are left as they would naturally be, meaning when our milk is left to settle, you will notice that the cream will rise to the top and form a cream-line.
Our milk is pasteurised and delivered to our stockists within 24 hours of milking so it is super-fresh.
We do not standardise our milk to an industry-defined fat content so the creaminess will naturally fluctuate with the seasons and with the cow’s diet, maintaining its natural flavour.
What is your favourite thing about being a dairy farmer? Do you have a favourite cow in your herd?
I think the best part about being a dairy farmer (or in my case, being married to a dairy farmer) is that we are fortunate to live and work in a beautiful location.
We never take for granted the countryside around us, the views wake up to each day and how they change with the seasons.
Although farming is a 24/7 occupation and every day has its own challenges, we love what we do so I guess it just becomes a lifestyle rather than a job.
Cows are such beautiful animals and I have several favourites, as have our children, but I think the one that I have always been most fond of is a cow we named Peggy.
As a young calf, she broke her leg and although our vet at the time did his best to stabilise the break so it could heal (which is not an easy task on a calf), her future was uncertain.
Her makeshift cast gained her the nickname Peg-Leg, which we later refined to Peggy!
Thankfully, after some rest and lots of TLC she did make a full recovery and went on to join our milking herd.
Have you seen a shift in customer shopping habits since the beginning of the pandemic?
When the first lockdown was put in place in March 2020, I think consumers were almost forced into looking elsewhere than the supermarket for their food.
We certainly found that our farm shop saw a huge increase in footfall during April and May 2020 and I know the same can be said for many of the village shops and farm shops that we supply.
From our experience, although many of the new faces we saw during the early days of the pandemic have undoubtedly migrated back to the supermarket, many have not, and they still visit us to buy their milk to this day.
I guess that situation presented an opportunity for consumers to try more locally-produced food and a good percentage of them have not reverted back to their pre-Covid shopping habits.
I hope that means that they prefer the taste and provenance of locally-produced food and perhaps enjoy the experience of visiting their local farm or farm shop.
How do people buy your products?
All our products can be purchased from our farm shop, in which we have a milk vending machine that can dispense both whole and semi-skimmed milk into a reusable glass bottle.
Or you can buy them from one of our stockists in South and East Dorset and the New Forest. Please visit our website for a full list of our stockists.
To find your local milk vending machines, you can use Dorset Foodie Feed’s searchable map or their list here.