24/7 Raw Milk Dispenser (French Tale)

Once upon a time, there was a dairy farmer in the south-west of France who was struggling to make ends meet. One day, while surfing the web, he uncovered what he believed may be his ticket to a prosperous future. Sure enough: two years later, he’s already boosted his yearly income by 25 percent without increasing his production. And that’s only the beginning. The trick, borrowed from his Italian peers? Two raw milk vending machines set up outside local supermarkets.

“The local dairy processor was buying my milk 0.24 euro/liter at the time I set up my first vending machine. Overnight, I was selling 200 liters of milk per day at 1 euro/liter directly to consumers,” Michel Cantaloube explains. He keeps 100 percent of the proceeds, since the supermarket CEO, Patrick Bardot, to whom Michel Cantaloube brought his idea, understood the lure of a machine providing fresh raw milk 24/7 outside his door. He offered Michel Cantaloube a free spot with free electricity, in exchange for the commitment that the farmer would not colonize any other supermarket chain with his raw milk offering.

Consumers collect precisely the volume they pay for: 0,2 liters for 0,20 euros, 1/2 liter for 0,50 euros, 1 liter for 1 euro or 2 liters for 2 euros.

“Leclerc has a strong presence on each side of town, so I felt that gave me a big enough opportunity,” the farmer says in reference to the giant French distributor. Today, his two Italian-made vending machines sell 400 liters daily, or 20 percent of his production. Each one represents a 40,000-euro investment, 30 percent of which was covered through government grants.

Here is certainly one lucky dairy farmer with many lucky customers. No armed SWAT team descending on his family farm in the wee hours of dawn, as has transpired in America, nor seizing his vending machines against public will. In fact, the 24/7 direct-sale initiative has drawn national attention.

The sale of raw milk is legal in France. The regulation calls for controls of the product by the public veterinarian services three times a month, with one extra in-depth analysis every quarter; the assessment of the health of the herd once a month; and the inspection of the sanitary conditions of the milking facility once a year.

Michel Cantaloube, dairy farmer in Montauban, France, with one of his 50 Holstein cows. He has no intention of ever growing his herd and increasing his milk production.

One of only two dairy farms in the vicinity of Montauban, the picturesque town where I grew up (disclaimer!), La Ferme des Tilleuls has been producing milk for 30 years. Its practices are certified sustainable and health-promoting with the Bleu Blanc Coeur label. Established in 2000, this independent label guarantees that the farm’s 50 Holstein cows are well-treated, receive no growth hormones or antibiotics, and are fed only natural products that enhance their health and pack their milk with Omega-3. ” ‘Healthy animals, healthy human beings’, that’s what we believe,” says Michel Cantaloube.

He adds: “Many customers have come to me to share that, after years of staying clear of milk because of a perceived lactose intolerance, they’re enjoying my raw milk with no side effect. They’ve come to realize that they were never allergic to lactose per se but to the compromised product that is pasteurized milk.”

Most likely, the success story doesn’t end here. La Ferme des Tilleuls is the preferred provider of some local restaurants, including La Pays’ Anne, the famous ‘farm-diner’ opened last year in Montauban by MasterChef Winner Anne Alassane. As a result, it got a special mention in her recipe book published last May.

Unpasteurized yogurt by La Ferme des Tilleuls. Sold at local Leclerc supermarkets starting next month, this product will generate an income of 1,30 euros/liter of raw milk.

Even more importantly, Michel Cantaloube doesn’t intend to sell the remaining 80 percent of his production to the dairy industry for much longer, if all goes according to plan. For he has discovered an even more lucrative way to monetize his raw milk than direct sales: unpasteurized yogurt. He’s enrolled his nephew in his new business venture. As it turns out, the latter invested in yogurt-making equipment several years ago, which he has been utilizing below capacity. “After deducting all the production costs, making yogurt enables me to sell my milk the equivalent of 1.30 euros/liter,” Michel Cantaloube says. Yogurt is also much easier to ship than raw milk, and has a longer shelf life.

So far, the product has been successfully tested in four local small shops, including one food coop. Michel Cantaloube expects his big breakthrough next month when his yogurt is distributed through… local Leclerc supermarkets.

“We’ve been selected as one of the local producers that Leclerc intends to push starting in November, as it launches its national strategy designed to improve its offering and distinguish itself from the competition, supermarket by supermarket,” Michel Cantaloube explains. “If the full 80 percent of my 400.000-liter annual production could be turned into yogurt, I would be in Heaven!”
Image: Raw-milk vending machine set up by Michel Cantaloube outside a Leclerc supermarket in Montauban, France. On the left, a glass-bottle dispenser. On the right, customers access the "raw milk fountain" behind the small shiny door. The machine sells 200 liters per day. It is restocked every morning. Sensor chips keep its owner informed in real time, via his cell phone, of the milk temperature and volume.

81 comments

Konrad P.
Konrad P.4 years ago

Dear milk producers,

we are Polish producer of raw milk vending machines.
We can sell You very good quality with very good price.
If You interested in this way of selling raw milk or any other farm products (cottage cheese, eggs, cream etc), don’t hasitatet to conntact with me. I will send You more information with prices.
You can find us on alibaba (search for company MILKMAT).
http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/121021336/MILKMAT_MIDI_v1_1_mlekomat_.html

mob +48 600 831 210
konrad.pszowski@milkmat.pl

Konrad Pszowski
MILKMAT

Konrad P.
Konrad P.4 years ago

Dear milk producers,

we are Polish producer of raw milk vending machines.
We can sell You very good quality with very good price.
If You interested in this way of selling raw milk or any other farm products (cottage cheese, eggs, cream etc), don’t hasitatet to conntact with me. I will send You more information with prices.
You can find us on alibaba (search for company MILKMAT).
http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/121021336/MILKMAT_MIDI_v1_1_mlekomat_.html

mob +48 600 831 210
konrad.pszowski@milkmat.pl

Konrad Pszowski
MILKMAT

Massimo N.
Massimo N.4 years ago

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/11/23/1919106/wash-creamery-recalls-raw-milk.html

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/11/16/1908676/california-recalls-quarantines.html

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/11/24/1919403/cozy-vale-creamery-raw-milk-products.html

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/11/25/1920189/contamination-spurs-recall-of.html

Enjoy your poison..

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P.4 years ago

wow, that's great

Kiana Siino
Kiana S.4 years ago

Well done to Mr. Cantaloube! I hope he reaches his goal and is an inspiration to small farmers everywhere. My mother gets raw milk from her local dairy in Wales. Buying local produce is a great way to support the members of your community.

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M.4 years ago

How awesome! I wish America were this forward thinking.

Zoe B.
Zoe B.4 years ago

buying from this vending machine still means paying the taxman, and making profits for Leclerc.
In my Village (Thones), there are vending machines set up by the dairy farmers' co-op. They put the milk in every morning, they pay no supermarket to sell it for them, and the tax is minimal when you cut out the middle man.

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin4 years ago

Cow milk is for cows.

Cow milk is NOT good for humans.

You don't even need to drink milk on a regular basis because you get plenty of calcium from a wide variety of other food sources. EX: You can get calcium from Orange juice.

Anne F.
Anne F.4 years ago

Blend of tradition, science and new technology. Thanks for the story.

Laetitia Mailhes
Laetitia Mailhes4 years ago

@Emilykin I.
Unfortunately, the sale of raw milk IS illegal in Ontario and in the rest of Canada--has been since 1991: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_milk#Canada
Here is a petition that challenges the current legislation: http://naturalmilk.org/
Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt tried to circumvent the law by setting up a "cowshare", whose members would be legally allowed to consume the milk of the cows they "own". His example has been followed elsewhere, especially in the US. Last month, however, he was found guilty of 15 of the 19 charges brought against him.