While there is no standard definition of free-range, Valio sources its free-range milk from its free-stall farms, where the cows can move about, eat, and rest.
Free-range milk is produced on farms all around Finland and is packaged at Valio’s Riihimäki, Jyväskylä, and Oulu dairies.
Valio’s development manager, Mira Appelqvist, said, “We want to make free-range milk available to everyone. That is why all of Valio’s familiar milk will come from free-range cows. Regular milk is our largest group of consumer products, and this will allow the milk shelves of Finnish stores to take a significant sustainability leap.”
Since the beginning of 2018, Valio has paid a sustainability bonus to dairy farmers who have committed to higher standards of animal welfare. The bonus is currently two cents per liter of milk.
One of the requirements for the sustainability bonus is regular animal healthcare check-ups carried out by a veterinarian. In addition, dairy farms provide anaesthesia, pain relief, and sedation during disbudding – the removal of a calf's growing horns. All farms that produce free-range milk are within the sustainability bonus program.
The cows at Valio dairy farms are primarily grass fed, with supplements of domestic grains and turnip rape and rapeseed. The cows do not eat soy or GMO feed. The milk produced in Finland is always free of antibiotics. The cows are never given antibiotics as a preventive measure, but only as prescribed by a veterinarian.
“Animal welfare consists of many concrete actions the farms take every day. We believe that free-range milk will become the new norm. Sustainable milk production is not an option; it’s a condition for existence and a requirement of our operation, both ethically and economically. We will also continue to do development work with the farms. About two-thirds of Valio Group’s cows live in free-stall barns, and that number continues to grow,” Appelqvist said.