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.
“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.