How the Dairy Sector is Tackling Food Waste

The dairy sector is committed to adopting sustainable practices and ultimately being a key contributor to sustainable food systems. Of course, tackling food waste is a critical part of that effort. As the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment at the International Dairy Federation (IDF), I am honoured to have the chance to speak this week at a side event for the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and present a case study on the dairy sector’s innovative approaches to reducing...

Three Reasons Dairy is an Essential Part of a Sustainable Diet

  The UN Environment Assembly will be gathering soon in Nairobi to discuss the theme of “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”. How we can build sustainable food systems will no doubt be at the centre of these discussions. As the President of the International Dairy Federation (IDF), every day I see the important role that dairy plays in meeting these challenges. Feeding the world with healthy and sustainable food is a goal that we all share, and...

Tackling antimicrobial resistance in the dairy sector is a global effort to ensure animal and public health, and food safety

By Caroline Emond, Director General The dairy sector has adopted an integrated supply chain management approach to curb the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This requires positive actions and cooperation by all players such as dairy farmers, veterinarians, dairy and meat processing companies, animal feed producers, pharmaceutical firms and regulators. The recent annual World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018 may have concluded but AMR must continue to remain at the forefront of our continuous efforts to address this important issue. Antimicrobial agents are...

Our Future Depends on Ruminants
The media often reports how consumer choices can contribute to sustainable development, for instance by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. As a sustainability manager working for the International Dairy Federation (IDF), I came to realize that people are continually exposed to incorrect information that is repeated without being challenged, in particular about the impact of dairy cattle on climate change. Such media statements are deepening the confusion between opinion and science, which is unfortunate, resulting in incorrect food choices and poor nutrition and does not alleviate the pressure of climate change. First let me be clear, all human actions, and within those, the production of food, have an impact on the environment. But the growing campaign against animal foods is shifting the focus away from the root cause, which is the excessive use of fossil fuels. In fact, the dairy sector has one of the smallest carbon footprint per unit of animal product in the world. Producing milk and indirectly meat, accounts for only 4% percent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originated by human activities [1]. And the sector has been pioneering on the challenge to reduce environmental impact. The IDF has been providing scientific support to farmers and dairy advisors with best practices and methodologies. By its own initiative, the dairy sector has set ambitious targets of GHG reduction in many countries. Dairy’s biggest emission is caused by rumination (largely methane), and then by manure, feed production, land-use change, transport, and processing. But fortunately, methane is a short-lived climate pollutant. In fact, the conventional addition of methane to the rest of the GHG as a CO2-equivalent may misrepresent on future warming. Even though methane has a strong warming influence when it is first emitted, then the warming influence diminishes rapidly over a few decades. This is because chemical reactions cause it to be removed from the atmosphere, unlike other long-lived pollutants, such as the CO2 produced by fossil fuels.     A fantastic source of health for people and planet can be found through leveraging the role of ruminants in agriculture. I believe ruminants have the potential to lead the way towards healthier and sustainable diets. Ruminants eat what humans cannot eat, like grasslands, some agricultural sidestreams, and turn it into delicious, very palatable healthy foods, being as dairy and meat. The FAO has estimated that inedible food for humans accounts for 86% of all livestock feed, and in the case of the dairy sector, roughage (leaves, grass, silage and crop residues) represent nearly 90%. Ruminants preventing them to become an environmental burden. More important still, they feed on grassland resources, which are the largest remaining and least well-utilized resource of the planet. According to the Grassland and Pasture Crops Group of FAO, these are estimated to be 40.5 percent of the world’s area [2]. Ruminants’ manure contributes to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, enhancing soil microbiology, and making these more available for plants. Well-applied manure improves soil physical properties and root biomass leading to better soil health. Nowadays, dairy producers are trying to measure the contribution of dairy animals to the sequestration of carbon in grasslands in well-managed grazing systems. Grazing ruminants also play a role in shaping ecosystems. Under adequate management, dairy animals may take over the role of wild herbivores. In Europe, extensive livestock grazing is key to maintaining permanent grassland habitats with high biodiversity levels. In African savannahs, pastoralism is often compatible with wildlife and can enrich landscapes and their biodiversity. Ruminant producers can through the control of feral animals and weeds, and managing the risk of damaging wildfires.     As a matter of fact, dairy cattle can help preserve biodiversity if it is managed in a holistic manner, as outlined by the IDF Guide on Biodiversity for the Dairy Sector, 2017 [3]. The loss of biological diversity has serious consequences for the environment, such as desertification, increasing floods and droughts, and global climate change. We cannot neglect some emissions from the livestock sector, but their comparison to the main emission sources would put us on a wrong path to solutions. The dairy sector will continue its efforts to reduce methane emissions. In 2016, the dairy sector and FAO signed the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam. It is the dairy sector’s will to increase productivity and efficiency worldwide to further reduce carbon emissions per kg of protein produced. The amount of milk per cow increases when she is well fed, healthy, productive and the herd is well-managed [4]. Livestock products are an easy and efficient way to get the precious and valuable source of nutrients we need. Yes, dairy is part of a sustainable diet. We should stop seeing ruminants as a problem and, rather, value them for what thay are: part of the solution.   -----------------------------------------------------