Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

16 June 2009

Dairy Farmers of Britain: No government bail-out

Just in case you were in any doubt, the dairy-farmers’ co-operative organisation Dairy Farmers of Britain that went into receivership earlier this month operates in England and Wales only, not Scotland or Northern Ireland. You wouldn’t necessarily realise that from the news reports on TV and radio that are covering the story today, though. The one I caught on BBC1’s Breakfast show merely referred to the plight of some dairy farmers in ‘the UK’.

No wonder, then, that there’s been no bail-out for the organisation, whose debts must surely be infinitesimal compared with those of the Scottish banks! The statement on DFB’s collapse by the Secretary of State for the Environment (for England) Hilary Benn rather pathetically just accepted the organisation’s demise as inevitable. Nothing to be done. No action to keep the business going and maintain the thousands of livelihoods in England and Wales that depend on it, such as trying to get supermarkets to pay a decent wholesale price for English milk?

Mind you, the supermarkets I tend to shop in don’t sell ‘English milk’, in any case; just something they stick an insultingly huge Union Flag on and call ‘British’ – meaning that it must be English or Welsh, as you can’t imagine they’d dare to stick the same flag on Scottish produce and call it ‘British’! In fact, I’ve noticed that the Scotland-based Wiseman’s Dairy has been doing remarkably well recently; although, again, you wouldn’t necessarily know they’re Scottish unless you read the small print and notice the Glasgow postcode. No Union Flag on the bottles – the company’s Scottish, don’t you know, so we can’t have the British flag on there, can we? – but also no explicit Scottish markers, in case they put off the English consumers that now make up 66% of their market.

Having said that, it would be fair to observe that Wisemans also now sources much – perhaps even most – of its milk from English farmers. But again, we wouldn’t want to indicate that on the labels, would we? With this partly in mind, I tend to buy Wisemans milk or one of its other brands, ‘freshnlo’, when I can in preference to the Union Jack-stamped, ‘British’ (i.e. English) varieties, simply because of the insult of the flag and the censorship of the milk’s English origins. But how come Wisemans has done so well, particularly since devolution? Could it be that the Scottish milk industry and dairy farmers have enjoyed more support, grants and investment funding through the good offices of the Scottish Government? You can’t, after all, imagine the Scottish Government being quite as casual about the demise of a major Scottish milk producer as the British Government has been about Dairy Farmers of Britain England and Wales.

And I have to say that this organisation, for which I feel sympathy, made a big branding error in attaching the ‘Britain’ tag to its name. I can’t be the only one who would have gone out of my way to buy their milk if they’d called themselves ‘Dairy Farmers of England and Wales’, which would have been in complete contrast to the rest of the market, which falls over backwards to suppress any mention of ‘England’ from English produce.



  1. Wisemans have recently opened an enormous dairy at Bridgwater in Somerset right next to the M5.

    Comment by Hagar — 16 June 2009 @ 1.14 pm | Reply

  2. David,we can by milk at our local Morrison’s supermarket that has a small English flag on the label, and English butter with a similar flag.

    We stopped buying Dairy Crest Countrylife butter after they changed their wrapper from English butter to British butter, after a long advertising campaign by an old nut case singer from about a hundred years ago..his name escapes me!

    Marks & Spencer’s milk also has a CofSG flag, unless they have changed it since we last shopped there.

    But having said that my biggest gripe is with meat, none of the supermarkets sell English meat… Scottish beef, Welsh lamb, Irish beef, New Zealand lamb and British beef & lamb.

    It’s enough to try the patience of a saint!.

    Comment by BobShaw — 16 June 2009 @ 8.25 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I know what you mean about the meat situation. I’ve even resorted to buying continental meat in order to avoid having to buy the ‘British’ variety, even though it’s probably produced in England. I think the British flags they’re plastering all over the packaging appear to be getting bigger and bigger. What particularly annoys me is when they inform you which part of England the produce comes from (e.g. ‘West Country’ cheese or ‘East Anglian’ pork, etc.) and then still insist on adding the massive Union Flags and BRITISH designation. It’s as if the ‘Britishness’ of the goods were some monumental selling point they think customers will be terribly impressed by; but in reality, they’re desperate to avoid calling them English at any price, even though we can work out that they are.

      Do they really think the ‘English’ designation is some awful transgression against political correctness or will fatally compromise the marketability of such produce across the UK as a whole? Or are they doing the government’s bidding and re-naming anything English as British? Either way, it’s a sorry state of affairs!

      Comment by David — 17 June 2009 @ 1.08 am | Reply

  3. I bought DFoB’s milk primarily because it was a cooperative venture that gave a fair price to farmers. Can’t understand why they lost their contract w/ the Co-op – you’d think coops would stick together in tough times… I must raise this with my local co-op representatives…

    Comment by charliemarks — 13 July 2009 @ 11.22 am | Reply

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