Producing milk during the coronavirus outbreak

With many things being very uncertain at the moment, we know there are also some of questions about the availability of milk and dairy products in the face of exceptional demand. 

Our farmers and colleagues are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with record levels of demand, whilst also preparing for the possible realities of coronavirus - that the people who make the products may be sick, in self isolation or caring for their families and not able to do their usual jobs. While things are changing day by day, we have plans in place to ensure milk keeps flowing from farm to fridge. 

We know many of you are passionate about finding your favourite products. We really appreciate the patience everyone is showing in these exceptional circumstances. For those who have questions, we have included below some of those we are being asked most often, but if you have any more, please contact hello@arlafoods.com 

Will you stop making milk?

No. Everything we are doing is designed to send the highest volume of milk out to Britain’s fridges. We are working with retailers, government and of course our farmer owners so that collectively we can increase the amount of milk, butter and cheese going to shops across the UK.

 

Can I freeze my milk/cheese/butter/specific brand products?

We would ask that people only buy what they need for the week ahead given the exceptionally high demand for food at this time. For anyone who does need to freeze a product, milk, cheese and butter can all be frozen. We would recommend:

  • Freeze within Use By or Best Before date
  • Put milk into a freezer suitable container but leave some room for expansion. 
  • Defrost in the fridge before use
  • Consume within 24hrs of defrosting
  • We do not recommend freezing mould cheeses (Stilton, Brie and other Blue Cheeses) or soft cheese, cottage cheese and other processed cheeses.

 

Why can’t I find some of my favourite products?

There could be two reasons for this. The first is simply because demand has been very high. We’re are collecting every drop of milk we can from our farmers and producing record levels of products at the moment, but dairy is in very high demand.

The second is that we may have temporarily stopped making the product you are looking for. Every time we make a different product we have to clean the lines and change the packaging and some products take longer to make. Making fewer types of products, but more of them = more milk, cheese and butter to shops, so that’s what we are focusing on right now, so there is enough for everyone.

 

How are you deciding which products to keep?

We’re trying to keep a range of products so there is something for everyone but also taking out some of the most time intensive products that slow down production. These include: 

  • Temporarily stopping making all 1pt milk products
  • Temporarily stopping making all skimmed milk products for the supermarkets we provide
  • Temporarily stopping making Cravendale whole milk, but semi-skimmed and skimmed will continue as normal
  • Temporarily stopping all Big Milk production
  • Temporarily stopping making smaller packs of some cheese products, our Lactofree mini cheeses and some pack sizes on Castello cheeses.

 

We know that some people will be disappointed with these choices, but we are focused on making sure everyone has some dairy in their fridges at this time. We continue to review the situation and will bring these products back into production as quickly as we can.

 

What about the Arla products that come from your sites in Denmark?

We are in discussions with governments both in the UK and across the EU. The discussions all suggest that imported products such as Lurpak, Lactofree and Arla yogurts, will continue to arrive in Britain. 

 

Why do you have to stop some products? Can’t you just make more?

We have 2,400 dairy farmers across the UK providing milk for Arla products and 10 sites across the UK making these products. There is a limit as to how much milk can pass through these sites in any 24hr period, but making the highest volume, least time consuming products means we can provide enough for everyone.

 

Do you do home deliveries? 

No we do not run home delivery services and this is not something we will be introducing.

As well as supplying shops, Arla is also allocating dairy products for those who supply care homes, the NHS and other services supporting vulnerable individuals or key workers. We are prioritising these requests and for this reason we are not looking at starting deliveries to the public’s homes at this time.

 

Could you be sending more milk out now if there were more lorries and retailers were better supported?

Dairy supply chains are fast moving, operating 24hrs, seven days a week, with deliveries made everyday. Every part of the chain, from collecting milk at farm, to tankers delivering at site, to supply of packaging materials, to delivering to stores, to keeping systems updated needs to work and change together. We’re making these changes in our business and across the industry so we can continue increasing the amount of dairy going to shops at these extraordinary times.

 

What happens if too many of your colleagues get sick and you can’t make the products?

We’re making plans for extra colleagues to work with us in the event that significant numbers of colleagues have to self-isolate. We’re also owned by dairy farmers, many of whom have licenses to drive larger vehicles and have offered their services and those of their families across our production processes should we need them. We have the right back up in place, and with continued support from the Government and retailers we are confident we will keep milk flowing from farm to fridge.

 

What’s happening with your foodservice sales, doesn’t this release capacity?

Demand in foodservice has fallen, but some of these products came from our sites in Denmark and other capacity has already been usurped by the additional demand levels at shops. We are also prioritising support for the Government and those companies that provide to care homes, hospitals, our most vulnerable people at this time.