School milk proposal is a whole lotta bottle

Emma Rennie bottling milk. 25_c24weeisledairy01_emma_rennie

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The first farmers in Argyll and Bute this century to supply pasteurised milk straight from the farm are keen to get it on the menu at a Kintyre primary school.

Emma Rennie and her husband Don Dennis who run The Wee Isle Dairy on Gigha, recently installed equipment costing more than £180,000, including a state of the art pasteurising machine.

Last year they began supplying artisan ice-cream in six different flavours from their Tarbert Farm, and this year expanded into milk using half and full litre recyclable bottles.

The dairy is currently filling more than 1,000 bottles of whole milk per week and supplying it to a wide range of retailers in Argyll and Bute – but not Gigha’s primary school.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has written to the deputy first minister John Swinney, who is also cabinet secretary for education and skills, in a bid to allow the Wee Isle Dairy to supply schools in the county, beginning with Gigha, where the couple’s son Mark, 5, is a pupil.

Mr Russell wrote: ‘The (Wee Isle Dairy) initiative is one which is most welcome and very positive given the difficulties that the milk sector – and the island – has experienced in the last couple of years.

‘I have been pleased to support Don and Emma whenever I could, but on a visit last week I discovered that the school on Gigha, which is less than two miles from their farm, cannot take the milk because – being full fat – it appears to be contrary to Scottish government regulations.

‘These regulations recommend that only semi-skimmed milk is provided by schools and Argyll and Bute council has indictated that this prevents the school being supplied by Don and Emma.

‘Having researched the subject, Don and Emma contend that there is evidence which shows that full fat milk is not harmful but in fact could be better for growing children.

‘In addition, the milk would be much fresher than that brought on to the island and it is supplied in recyclable bottles.

‘The refusal to use the local supplier also flies in the face of encouragement the government has given to local food industries and to local procurement.’

Mr Dennis added: ‘Our milk is pasteurised at between 63° and 65° for half an hour but most milk in the UK is flashed at 72°C for 15 seconds which impacts the taste and the structures of the milk proteins.’