The Way Nature Intended

Barambah Organics’ Fresh, All Natural Dairy Products

Barambah Organics is an idyllic throwback to the old fashioned farm – fresh milk delivered in glass bottles; pure, natural products; dairy cattle free to roam and graze. Ian Campbell’s family has been running the same dairy farm in Queensland for the past one hundred years, and when the operation passed to Ian and his wife Jane, they wanted to bring back the near-forgotten art of natural farming and become more than just “a supplier to the big multinationals.”

After a university education in rural science and a decade long career as a dairy cattle nutritionist, Mr Campbell was well prepared. “Like a lot of the new farming generation coming through – highly skilled, highly educated – he wanted to be his own man and create his own products,” Ms Campbell explains.

The Campbells’ commitment to “holistic farming” has paid off tremendously, and the superior taste and quality of their all natural dairy products has been recognised with numerous awards. Year after year, the company’s yogurts, cheeses, cream, and milk have won silver, gold, and champion medals in the Australian Dairy Product Competition, the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Show, the Queensland Food and Wine Show, and the Australian Grand Dairy Awards. Barambah Organic’s marinated feta has even been honoured internationally with a 2009 gold medal at the World Cheese Awards – the only cheese in the world to receive gold that year. The company’s labna cheese has been named best flavoured cheese by Dairy Australia, and ABC Delicious magazine praised the company as Australia’s best dairy producer this year.

The Campbells believe that Barambah products are superior to conventionally farmed dairy products because everything they produce is 100 per cent organic. This means that their dairy cattle are never exposed to pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, bovine growth hormone, or antibiotics, so the milk is completely pure and natural.

Maintaining the health of the herd is crucial to avoid the use of antibiotics and other additives. Instead of relying on drugs after a cow becomes ill, Barambah Organics fights disease with nutrition, which strengthens the cow’s immune system and prevents the animal from getting sick in the first place. “That’s the way that Ian’s family has always farmed,” Ms Campbell explains. “It was all about making sure that the soil had the right balance to it and that the soil was rested and rotation [was maintained]. And those are the sort of practices that have held farmers in good stead over the years. Because if you’ve got exhausted soils, you’re not going to have healthy plants and if you don’t have healthy plants you’re not going to have healthy animals.” The concept is simple: “If the cow isn’t being well nourished, the cow has a greater likelihood of getting sick.”

Organic farming also requires careful monitoring, good sanitation, and a great deal of hands-on care. “[You have to make] sure that when the cow is calving you are taking great care of that cow so that she doesn’t develop milk fever, which is where a lot of [conventional] farmers have to inject the cow with antibiotics to get her back on her feet.”

Stress also compromises the immune system and may lead to sickness, which is why the Campbells give their cows plenty of fresh air and open space. “Our stocking rate is very low per acre,” Ms Campbell reports. “We don’t try to jam quite a number of cows onto one acre. We’ve got 1,300 acres on one farm and over 800 on the other. We’ve got access to the river and clean running water. Our cows are free to roam.” These idyllic pastures are a far cry from the living conditions common to the factory farms dominating the industry. “We’ve been over to the northern states of North America and seen how cows are herded into big stalls, and you can imagine how a cow would get quite sick. And you hear of them setting up big 10,000 cow dairies [that are] supposedly organic and you think, ‘well how do they maintain the health of that herd?’” Barambah Organics, on the other hand, maintains a smaller herd and is able to give each animal individual attention. “Because if you look after a cow well, and she is nourished and rested, she will produce more litres. It all comes back to the wellbeing of the animal.”

Ms Campbell says that healthy cows not only produce more litres, but higher quality milk as well. “We have good levels of fat and protein,” she says. “Because if you are not feeding the cow properly you are not going to have very good fat or protein levels and you can’t make a good yogurt or a good cheese if your milk is lacking.”

The company’s milk is also low in the milk sugar lactose. Lactose, which is always naturally present in milk, “comes from what the cow is being fed and how the cow breaks that food down,” Ms Campbell explains. Barambah’s dairy products tend to have lower than usual lactose levels due to the healthy, all natural diet that the cows are fed. In fact, Ms Campbell reports that many customers who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance are able to digest Barambah Organics’ dairy products.

All of these factors lead to products packed with high levels of nutrition, something that Ms Campbell says might not always be the case with conventionally produced milk. Although many conventional farms maintain healthy herds, milk from multiple dairy operators is pooled together during processing – including milk made by sick or stressed cows. Ms Campbell explains that mixing all the milk together, regardless of its quality, will inevitably bring down the overall nutrition level of the nation’s conventional milk supply.

Barambah Organics, however, owns and operates dairy farms and processing facilities, allowing the company to control the quality of its products “from paddock to plate… because we manage the chain, we can ensure the integrity of the product. We control every aspect of the chain.”

Many consumers say that Barambah’s milk tastes better than conventionally farmed milk. “Our milk, it almost tastes sweet because it is in its natural state,” Ms Campbell insists. “We don’t play around with it. We don’t add anything.” Unlike many competitors, Barambah’s dairy products don’t contain gelatine, thickeners, or any artificial flavours, and the milk isn’t homogenised or exposed to extreme temperatures.

Homogenisation is a standard process that most conventionally produced milk undergoes to prevent the cream from separating. Homogenisation only became the standard a few decades ago and is done purely for aesthetic reasons. “When it went to a carton people didn’t want their cream pooling at the top,” Ms Campbell explains. “There are no health benefits to it. It’s just done for its appearance.” In fact, she reports that some experts believe homogenisation may actually have some ill effects. “If you are altering [milk with homogenisation], you are denaturing it, and it’s not the way it should be. There is a change that is going on in that milk, and is that really good for you?” She goes on to explain that the fat molecules are “restructured” during homogenisation, and that some studies suggest that these smaller fat particles may convert to cholesterol more easily than non-homogenised milk fat. But, most consumers with Barambah brand loyalty say that they choose non-homogenised milk simply because it tastes better than its processed counterpart.

In addition, Barambah milk is minimally heat treated, which many experts and consumers believe helps to retain the milk’s fresh, natural flavour. The company’s milk is still fully pasteurised and meets all government safety regulations, but it isn’t “being blasted to high temperatures by the big companies and played around with by the big companies… We are not denaturing it [or] blasting out the goodness,” Ms Campbell explains.

The team is committed to maintaining rigorous food safety standards in addition to high nutrition levels and delicious flavour. The company runs its own lab, employs a microbiologist on site, and tests every batch before release. “We know a lot of people are buying our yogurt for their little ones, for their first foods,” Ms Campbell explains. “So we are feeding the most vulnerable. We are mindful of that.”

In fact, Barambah’s line of yogurts was launched when the Campbells realised “we needed a good yogurt to feed our children.” Mr Campbell, a qualified nutritionist, is “very conscious of antioxidants… of what we should be eating for good and optimum health,” and has applied this knowledge to the company’s product development. His expertise has also helped the team to produce a host of fresh and delicious yogurt flavours including cherry, blueberry, and strawberry. The company’s newest yogurt flavour, apple cinnamon, launches this month and has already been quite well received by industry insiders. As with all Barambah products, the new yogurt flavour is entirely natural, including the apples, which are organically grown in New Zealand.

The Barambah Organics team distributes much of their product themselves, but also relies on a handful of dependable distributors with whom they have formed close relationships. United Organics, for example, has been with the company since day one. “We’ve got a lot of good business partners that we’ve got very good relationships with,” Ms Campbell reports. “We have some amazing distributors… It’s all about relationship building and finding other good operators who are like minded.”

Eight hundred stores carry the brand nationally, none of which are mainstream retailers. Instead, Barambah products are distributed to various independent supermarkets and natural food stores. This business model is important, the team believes, because it means that they only deal with retailers who “care about the product they are putting on the shelf.”

The team plans to begin distributing their product overseas soon, as well. The company is currently undergoing accreditation to enable it to export to other countries, and Ms Campbell reports “quite a lot of interest” in Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong for Barambah’s all natural products. “There are some very experienced consolidators who have been taking dairy over to those Asian markets, and they think our products will do quite well,” Ms Campbell adds.

From a small family farm to a renowned organics company, Barambah has come a long way since the Campbells first set out to provide consumers with all natural dairy products. But, the reaction from today’s satisfied customers remains the same as when the company sold its first glass bottle of fresh, organic milk. “It just trigger[s] so many memories in people,” Ms Campbell says. “So many people make the comment that ‘this was the way it was. This is the way milk is supposed to taste.’”

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December 19, 2018, 5:12 AM AEDT