Orkney’s lush grass, which grows in pastures near the sea, provides a natural stress-free environment for dairy cows. And stress-free cows mean good milk and dairy products, created using traditional processes that go back through the centuries.
It was during World War Two when Orkney farmers turned to dairy farming in a big way to satisfy the needs of 60,000 service personnel based here. When the military pulled out of Orkney in 1946, the islands were left with a surplus of milking cows - giving birth to our dairy products industry.
Cheese is produced at the Orkney Cheese Company factory, which uses a traditional dry-stir method to create its multi-award winning cheddar, exported throughout the UK. Orkney Cheddar now enjoys European Protected Geographical Indication status, assuring consumers they are buying a genuine, high-quality product from the islands. The Island Smokery takes this cheddar and smokes it, with the results so popular the firm has had to expand its Stromness factory.
Farm cheeses were a great tradition in Orkney until legislation sadly stopped most of the production. However, Grimbister Farm Cheese in Finstown is still made and there are plain and flavoured types available. This cheese is popular breaded and deep fried as a starter in local restaurants. Veira Russell’s Orkney squeaky cheese is another farmhouse survivor which is highly prized. Farmhouses cheeses are widely available in independent shops.
The Orkney Creamery at Crantit Farm in St Ola is a family-owned business, producing the most widely sold milk in Orkney, available throughout the islands. The firm is also famous for Orkney Ice Cream, introduced to use up surplus cream when semi-skimmed milk boomed in popularity. This quality, full cream ice cream comes in a delicious range of flavours, including original, apple crumble, marmalade cheesecake and the hugely popular Orkney fudge flavour, and is sold across Orkney and further afield.
Walliwall Farm in St Ola prides itself on its low intensity farming and long-lived Ayrshire cattle and produces milk, cream and pasteurised and non-pasteurised butter which is rich and a deep yellow colour.
Orkney had a huge egg industry until a hurricane in 1952 destroyed 7,000 hen houses and the hens. Although egg production never recovered to its former extent, free range local eggs are available in the shops.