Today, on 1 June, we are celebrating World Milk Day, recognising the importance of milk as a global food and the benefits of the dairy sector for livelihoods, health and nutrition.
A Chef from the Chefs’ Manifesto who is working with milk in an innovative and sustainable way, is Sweden-based Chef David Johansson. We chatted to him about the milk on tap system, which he and his team built into their restaurant concept. Customers either buy milk in glass bottles, top up their coffee or order milk drinks at the bar, with three milks to choose from. At the moment, the restaurant is offering pea milk, organic cow milk (3 % fat) and almond milk. We took the opportunity to ask Chef Johansson a few questions around this concept and its sustainability benefits.
We are today talking about the benefits of dairy with regards to health and nutrition, affordability and accessibility and livelihoods. How do you see the benefits of dairy, especially amid the growing concern of its impact on the planet and the growing demand for plant-based milks?
I grew up on milk. A big glass of regular cow milk to every meal was standard. Milk gives you strong bones – that was the mantra. Many of my friends were dairy farmers and I have huge respect for the process, hard work and lifestyle it takes to be a dairy farmer. I couldn´t understand when people got really upset because the milk price went over 10 Swedish crown per litre, at the same time they bought a 0,5 litre pet bottle with flavoured water for 25 Swedish crowns. Bottomline, I like milk but at the same time I also welcome alternative milk-like products such as Pea-milk, oat-milk, almond-milk and so on.
How did the idea for the on-tap milk system in your restaurant come about, how does it look and how does it work?
We built this restaurant concept around our Swedish food heritage, Husmanskost (Swedish comfort food). However, the execution uses contemporary techniques and takes into account how we eat today, not just recreating the plate model we were used to 40 years ago. Sometimes we do a traditional Swedish dish completely deconstructed and served directly on waxed paper. The flavours are the same, but the ingredients are prepared in a different way. Textures become crispier and colours more vibrant. We wanted to bring in milk in a fun way since milk holds an important place in our food heritage.
The tap idea for milk came up when we planned the bar. We were initially working with wine on tap to minimise bottle handling. Instead of a gas driven tap, which you use for beer, we now have electric pumps to the taps installed in a closed chilled system and can basically put any liquid in the system. SUPER FUN! I have tried almost everything... pickling brine, drinks, ice coffee, broth etc.
How have you seen your packaging waste diminish from the use of your on-tap milk system? What other sustainability benefits have materialised?
To have the different milks available on tap for the customers resulted in people experimenting more with the different milk alternatives (notably the plant-based milk products). Apart from reducing packaging waste by 90% in the coffee bar, we are also testing a dispenser that portions the milk based on which coffee drink you are making. Through this system, the waste of milk gets very close to zero.
What factors do you take into consideration when you source milk to ensure the cows are treated well and the impact on the environment is minimised?
Today we only use Swedish KRAV milk. KRAV is a certificate showing that the product is produced on an organic basis with extra high demands on animal welfare, health, social responsibility and climate impact. It’s on our list to buy directly from good farms, but since we just opened, that will be the next step!
As the pandemic took hold of society and we entered lockdown, we heard of terrible stories of milk being poured down the drain as demand from the hospitality industry disappeared and it was not economical for them to keep it. This has motivated consumers to source products like milk and cheese directly from the farmers, creating smaller, localised supply chains – can you see this continuing in the future and do you think this will be able ensure a more sustainable consumption of dairy going forward?
I can't help thinking of positive things that can come out of this terrible situation, especially on the environmental side. For example, we have all learned how to solve things and how to live without travelling to the same extent. Or, as they are fighting for survival, countless restaurants and smaller local food producers have become extremely innovative. Against this backdrop, I really hope that many of the “crisis” initiatives and temporary solutions that materialised show us the way forward into more sustainable consumption, including in the dairy industry.
To celebrate, I’ll now grab a bottle of milk and a freshly baked cardamom bun. If you haven’t tried this yet, you haven’t lived!
Massive thanks to Chef David for taking the time and for giving us an insight into this great project! Happy World Milk Day everyone!
How to get involved:
Follow activities on social media channels using #WorldMilkDay and #EnjoyDairy.