The Moo Man started as a film about a farmer’s struggle to survive in a world dominated by mega dairies and supermarkets’ buying power. Five years ago father and son partnership Phil and Stephen Hook took the bold step and started marketing their milk direct to customers, bypassing the supermarkets that were paying less than the cost of its production.
They sell ‘raw’ milk which hasn’t been pasteurised or homogenised. Supporters claim it contains more vitamins and important enzymes than treated milk, and beneficial bacteria which can help to tackle allergies. “Raw milk and pasteurised milk are totally different,” says Stephen.
The milk is sold through farmers’ markets and a local milk round near their East Sussex base. They also offer a weekly delivery service for those living further afield, covering most of the UK. Selling direct to their customers cuts out the middleman so the Hooks receive a fair price for their produce.
“Our milk is extremely natural and pure – nothing has been added or taken away.”
As the film progressed, the at times unruly cows and their relationship with the farmers soon took centre stage. “They all have idiosyncrasies and I suppose the film shows dairy cows as they’ve never been seen before,” says Stephen. For four years, filmmaker Andy Heathcote captured the highs and lows of life on the farm. A key message throughout is that the cows aren’t just commodities, something that’s too often forgotten in today’s society, where food production is so far separated from many people’s lives.
The film was one of just 12 international documentaries chosen from thousands of entries to be screened at Sundance film festival in January. For the Hooks, rubbing shoulders with celebrities including the festival’s founder Robert Redford made for an interesting diversion from dairy farming. The Moo Man was also shown at the Berlin Film Festival in February, where it had its European premiere. The film should make its way to independent cinemas across the UK later this year.
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