A FLINTSHIRE farm owner has spoken of the rise in popularity of raw milk despite the endless challenges the product faces.

H.W. Oultram Raw Milk on Newbridge Farm, Deeside, has reported a vast increase in sales in recent times, and the owner has attributed it to the more positive publicity the product receives.

Steve Oultram, who owns the family-run farm, said: "We have customers coming from as far and wide - Anglesey, Chester, Merseyside, Wrexham and Manchester - for our raw milk.

"They're only travelling that far because people have become more aware of the value of raw milk, and there's nowhere else to go. There's only a handful of raw milk farms now, five or six at the most, with most in South Wales.

"With the medical profession not opposing it anymore, there's now better publicity around raw milk and that's helped people to know the benefits of drinking it."

Newbridge Farm has been in the Oultram family for nearly 90 years after Steve's parents - Herbert and Eleanor - moved there in 1932.

The couple started off by rearing poultry on 16 acres of land which had no water or electricity, but the farm has now grown to have about 400 heads of cattle spread across 200 acres of land.

Steve adds: "Our product goes back to the days when my father had a milk round and delivered it around the local area.

"When he gave that up, we had the opportunity to sell raw milk out of our petrol station shop and it's developed from there.

"We've always sold milk in small quantities, but in recent years it's developed quite significantly and now we're selling 10 times what we used to sell 10 to 15 years ago.

"Raw milk used to get a lot of adverse publicity, but now it's looked at more positively and people drink it because they see the benefits of it.

"We have some customers who have an intolerance of pasteurised milk and cannot drink it but can drink raw milk perfectly well without any problems."

Despite the recent rise in popularity of the product, a number of hurdles remain in the industry with Red Tractor - a food and farm assurance scheme - still not endorsing raw milk as a 'safe' product.

"Red Tractor will not allow us to use their logo on raw milk even though it is so strictly regulated. Regular testing takes place on my farm and inspections have become even more frequent.

"It's only right and proper that there are standards that you have to adhere to, as long as they are enforced fairly and adequately, I don't mind.

"But I do think the Food Standards Agency is overzealous, and the Environmental Agency are far too quick to blame milk for the ailments in the country.

"We're an easy target, whereas there are other targets which have the Red Tractor logo that are far more responsible for illnesses that occur."

Currently, raw milk can only be sold or delivered directly to the customer or end user. But that is something that Steve hopes changes.

"We can't supply other shops to sell on to their customers, or supply hotels, or cafes, or any other outside agency, which is disappointing because the milk is one of the safest products on the market.

"I don't see that changing any time soon either because they seem adamant that it will remain in place.

"I hope raw milk continues growing but it's in the hands of the powers above, who are currently discussing tightening regulation and making it more difficult to sell."