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Upper Hunter business taking the '$1 milk' debate head-on in Woolworths: Hunter Belle Dairy

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 New England MP Barnaby Joyce, Annie Chesworth from Hunter Belle Dairy Co, Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood.

An Upper Hunter business is taking the $1 milk debate head-on in Woolworths.

Hunter Belle Dairy Co now produces thousands of litres of milk each week to put on the shelves of the National grocery chain’s stores from Scone all the way to Swansea.

Annie and Jason Chesworth own the Upper Hunter based business with their family. The Chesworth’s have been milking cows in the Hunter for more than 130 years, but in 2007 they made the change to making cheese and as the business went from strength to strength with many other products.

The milk the Chesworth’s use is from high quality Swiss Brown cows on a family owned property in Singleton.

Jason said the response to their milk landing on the shelves has been overwhelming.

"We're very, very humbled by the response that we have gotten. There have been a lot of messages and a lot of support and the bottles are flying off the shelf so we are very humbled at the people of the Hunter Valley who said we want to get behind this product and really support the farmers out there," he said.

The unhomogenised milk is available locally at Muswellbrook IGA, Hunter Belle Cheese Café and Paddock to Pantry but now 21 Woolies stores stock it: Scone, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Aberglasslyn, Rutherford, Cessnock, Maitland, Green Hills, Raymond Terrace north, Raymond Terrace Centro, Glendale, Jesmond, Warabrook, Cardiff, Mayfield, Kotara, Charlestown, Mt Hutton, Newcastle west, Belmont and Swansea.

The demand has been extraordinary.

"Woolies ordered double as much as I thought they were going to in the first week so that was pretty scary but it was a good shot to the system,”

Last week between 7.500 and 8,000 litres went out to the stores.

“Scone has already sold out with a double allocation; Scone sold out in a week, Muswellbrook sold out in a week as well so to see that sort of result is just breathtaking from our side."

On why they decided to get their milk out there, Jason said it was simple. The people wanted it.

"Every time that whole dollar a litre milk debate seems to surface again on social media one of the biggest comments that I always notice is from consumers saying you can buy the branded milk but they're all owned by multinationals as well so how does that support our farmers?”

“So we were confident that if we could give the people of the Hunter Valley a milk that they know the farmers are paid 25-30 per cent more than the market average and that we could get it to them really nice and fresh that it would be a success."

"We've been using that milk for the last 10 years to make our award-winning cheese so we know it’s been a pretty special and pretty different milk to what you can buy in the supermarket,”

“So we were pretty keen to give people access to it. That milk pretty much shipped straight up the highway, is pasteurised and bottled in Scone and then sent straight to stores within 24 hours."

Without the local support though Jason said they certainly wouldn’t be where they are today.

"It's been a pretty exciting 10 years and making good quality cheese really does mean a lot to us and we are even more proud of the support that it gets locally because without the local following we wouldn't be where we are today,"

"We make the most of all of the opportunities that are thrown our way and try and work out how to survive with jobs in the local area and support other local businesses as well,”

“The bigger we get the more jobs we get and the more things we can do like support our local fridgies and farmers and electrical workers."

"It all comes around in a circle when it comes to local business."

Image credit: Grant Broadcasters/Jessica Rouse