Wheelbirks promotes the benefits of unpasteurised milk

Advanced nutrition adviser Lee Gardener to give presentation on 'raw milk', which continues to divide opinion

From left, Hugh Richardson, Lucinda Richardson and Tom Richardson of Wheelbirks
From left, Hugh Richardson, Lucinda Richardson and Tom Richardson of Wheelbirks

THE North East’s only farm to sell its own unpasteurised milk is to host a free event on the health benefits of the product.

So-called ‘raw milk’ has long divided opinion, with many considering it a potentially dangerous alternative to the pasteurised variety.

But Wheelbirks farm, near Stocksfield, Northumberland, has been selling the product since farming operations began there in 1925, without any known adverse reactions.

Since the opening of the farm’s renowned ice parlour four years ago, sales have risen dramatically, boosted by a growing awareness of issues such as food miles and nutrition.

In May 2009, customers purchased 220 litres but by the same month this year, sales had grown to 1,500 litres.

Lucinda Richardson, who runs Wheelbirks with her husband Tom and his brother Hugh, said the business was now on a major drive to promote the product it had long believed in.

“We’re famous for all sorts of reasons, but particularly for our ice cream,” she said. “But my personal belief is that our purest and best product is the milk.

“It’s not something you get elsewhere in Northumberland. It tastes fresh and creamy, and older people tell us it’s how milk used to taste - we’re just not used to it anymore.”

Pasteurisation, first developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, involves heating milk to a high temperature, killing potential pathogens thought to be found in the substance.

In Scotland, there is still a blanket ban on raw milk, following an incident in 1983 when a group of schoolchildren became ill after drinking the substance.

However, Mrs Richardson pointed out that hygiene standards on the farm involved had been poor, whereas Wheelbirks was rated in the highest possible bracket on that front.

There, the milk is bottled fresh for the farm’s pedigree Jersey herd - the oldest in Northumberland - each morning. Environmental Health officers test the product regularly and the farm also carries out its own private laboratory tests.

“It is high in bacteria - but it’s good bacteria,” Mrs Richardson said. “It’s like a probiotic yoghurt - that’s the manufacturing version of this.

“It also helps the body absorb more minerals, is particularly good for children’s immune systems and is 100% biologically available, meaning everything in it can be used by the body.”

Mrs Richardson, who was a midwife for 12 years, suggested there were some situations in which the product may not be advised, such as when is an individual is pregnant or suffering from immune system impairment.

In saying that, she herself consumed it without problems throughout her three pregnancies.

Anyone interested in learning more about unpasteurised milk can attend a free event at the Wheelbirks Parlour tomorrow evening, beginning at 7.30pm, when advanced nutritional adviser Lee Gardener will give a presentation. Free samples will also be offered.

To book a place, email theparlour@wheelbirks.co.uk

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer