Marks & Spencer (M&S) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the M&S Select Farm milk pool, which aims to deliver for animal welfare as well as returning a fair and stable price for farmers.

The milk pool consists of 40 suppliers who deliver 100 million litres of milk between them annually.

Set up in 1999, the M&S milk pool prioritises fair pricing within the dairy industry and was originally launched as a voluntary, geographical grouping of progressive farmers committed to advancing UK dairy practices.

The introduction of the M&S Milk Pledge payment model in 2004 was designed to pay farmers a fair milk price above the cost of production, with the aim of giving M&S dairy farmers the stability to invest and create resilient farming businesses.

M&S head of agriculture and fisheries, Steve McLean, said: “The 25-year anniversary of our M&S milk pool is a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in the agricultural sector.

“The partnership and long-term commitment we have built with farmers has enabled them to invest for the future, and we are immensely proud of the progress we have made together, working closely to set industry-leading standards for animal welfare and environmental performance and consistently drive positive change, whilst being able to deliver a stable, fair and transparent milk price.”

Milk pool

M&S said the journey of the pool has been marked by several “significant milestones”, with the first being the adoption of independently audited farm standards and health and welfare policies.

The retailer said it and its dairy producers commitment to animal welfare was recognised when it became the first, and remains the only, national retailer to sell 100% RSPCA Assured milk.

M&S is also the first retailer milk pool to have a 100-day grazing pledge, the first to prohibit the use of critically important antibiotics and the first with no Johne’s positive cows in the milk supply.

M&S milk pool chair, John Downing, said: “The 25-year anniversary of the M&S milk pool is a great opportunity to look back and see what we’ve achieved.

“From modest beginnings to industry pioneers, the unique partnership between M&S, our milk processor Müller, and us as dairy farmers is certainly something to be celebrated and gives us a connection and involvement with our retailer that few others in the industry experience.”