Dairy’s sustainability story from recycling water to fueling automobiles
However for greater than a decade, the US dairy business has been working aggressively to scale back cows’ carbon hoofprint and meet bold targets to develop into greenhouse fuel impartial, optimize their water use and enhance water high quality by 2050.
On this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcastKaren Scanlon, govt vp, environmental stewardship for Dairy Administration Inc. and the Innovation Heart for US Dairy, shares particulars about these targets and the progress business is making to attain them.
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‘The Innovation Heart was set on a path to exhibit the transformative good that… dairy does’
Like most intentional sustainability initiatives, the US dairy business, below the steerage of the Dairy Checkoff and Innovation Heart for US Dairy, started its journey to enhance its environmental affect with a lifecycle evaluation in 2008 – the primary of its form within the US meals agriculture sector. As Scanlon explains, its findings weren’t as unhealthy as many thought, however there was room for vital enchancment.
The LCA targeted on fluid milk and located that US dairy accounts for two% whole greenhouse fuel emissions within the US, 5.1% of US water use and three.7% of US farmland.
“Realizing the dedication that farmers and dairy firms must steady enchancment, the Innovation Heart was set on a path to exhibit that transformative good that we consider dairy does for individuals, for communities and for the planet,”Scanlon stated.
And it’s already making progress for the reason that evaluation was carried out, and whereas there may be extra to do, she stated the progress demonstrates US dairy farmers’ dedication to caring for the earth and responding to shopper issues about how their meals is made.
“We all know that globally 75% of shoppers care about how their meals was produced, so it’s critically vital for us to convey that not solely has US dairy set some particular environmental targets, however that actually, in actual fact, US dairy farmers have a legacy as environmental stewards and regularly innovating and bettering and reducing their footprint by adapting and adopting particular practices and applied sciences, “Scanlon stated.
By way of these actions, she added, farmers can now produce 60% extra milk with 15 million fewer cows, 65% much less water, and 90% much less land than they did 76 years in the past. And that is a 63% smaller carbon footprint.
“Quick ahead a number of years to as we speak, that continued progress reveals that producing a gallon of milk has shrunk considerably from 2007, requiring 30% much less water, 21% much less land and a 19% smaller footprint,”Scanlon added.
Three prime targets
Armed with the findings from the LCA, the US Dairy Innovation Heart at the moment works with 34 firms, representing 75% of milk manufacturing and representing stakeholders throughout the business to establish key areas for enchancment and description how totally different gamers may positively change dairy’s environmental affect. The consequence, was the US Dairy Stewardship Dedication, which Scanlon explains recognized three priorities that would drive outsized affect.
By way of this, the business carried out a materiality evaluation that recognized three essential areas of focus for the business by way of 2050, together with lowering greenhouse fuel emissions, bettering water use and water high quality and bettering nutrient administration and soil well being.
“You will need to convey that these targets are collective throughout the business, and once we take into consideration the dairy business that features on the discipline degree the place the feed crops are grown… the place the cows are cared for and produce the milk and the dairy processing facility the place the fluid milk from the farm is made into dairy merchandise, “Scanlon stated.
Decreasing greenhouse fuel emissions
Taking a more in-depth have a look at the three priorities set by the dairy business, it could be stunning to some that reaching greenhouse fuel neutrality by 2050 made the reduce given the LCA’s discovery that dairy cows contribute solely 2% of whole greenhouse fuel emissions within the US. However as Scanlon notes, each incremental discount can have an amazing affect on the earth’s local weather.
“By way of the LCA, US dairy is aware of that its greenhouse fuel emissions about 2% of whole greenhouse fuel emissions in america. That does not imply we do not have an affect that we care about and wish to proceed to deal with and consider that it is potential for the business to succeed in greenhouse fuel neutrality, which means that the emissions into the ambiance are balanced by removes from the ambiance, ” Scanlon stated.
She defined in 2020 the business launched the US Dairy Internet Zero initiative to speed up voluntary actions to scale back environmental impacts by making practices and know-how extra accessible and inexpensive to farms of all sizes throughout the nation.
One instance of how the dairy business is lowering enteric emissions of methane – so emissions from cow burps and manure – is to check dietary components that may assist settle cows’ stomachs and scale back the fuel they go.
Enhancing water administration
The dairy business’s second and third targets deal with water, which Scanlon stated ranked “Very excessive”As a subject that the business ought to deal with as a result of it’s a finite useful resource but additionally a vital one. To make sure that each final drop is used responsibly and to its fullest, Scanlon explains that the second aim appears at how farms can maximize water use by recycling it extra effectively.
She defined that 94% of water utilized by the US dairy business goes to crop irrigation, and so bettering dairy feed manufacturing is a prime precedence. As well as, most dairy farms use a gallon of water seven or eight instances of their closed system, together with for consuming, cooling cows, cleansing, and to facilitate storage.
Constructing on this, the third aim for 2050 is to enhance water high quality, which relates partly to how farms handle manure – or different vitamins – and domesticate wholesome soil.
“Being attentive to water high quality can be taking note of how manure and vitamins are used on the dairy farm and on feed manufacturing acres, and as we incorporate manure as fertilizer on the manufacturing acres, we’re additionally serving to to construct soil well being,”Which improves water absorption, reduces runoff and improves the encompassing waterways, she stated.
A method the business is monitoring its progress in direction of this targets is by celebrating “finest at school” farms and corporations that apply innovating practices and applied sciences which can be scalable and replicable throughout the nation.
Final week, the 2022 winners had been introduced and included seven farms, companies and partnerships that displayed excellence in methane and different greenhouse fuel discount, corresponding to Bar 20 in Kerman, Calif., Which teamed with BMW North America to make use of renewable electrical energy from its dairy digester to assist energy greater than 17,000 electrical automobiles per 12 months.
This 12 months’s awards additionally acknowledged modern water use efficiencies, together with GrayHouse Farms in Stony Level, North Carolina, which designed their dairy with effectivity in thoughts and included a four-stage lagoon to finest use vitamins and water.
Scanlon additionally calls out previous notable winners, together with a Washington State dairy farmer who makes use of worms to filter this cow manure, which permits him to scale back odor, greenhouse fuel emissions and the variety of vehicles transporting manure off the farm.
One other instance highlights a partnership by which two firms created a personal municipal therapy plant to handle industrial waste to scale back stress on the municipal infrastructure and eradicate hauling of waste from the ability and generate renewable power.
Funding sustainable options
Recognizing that some modern sustainable options might be costly, Scanlon stated the Internet Zero Initiative is working to incorporate dairy farms within the evolving ecosystem service markets to reward farmers who’re lowering their environmental footprint, sequestering carbon or lowering methane emissions.
Likewise, she stated, some farms fund sustainability initiatives by leveraging the manure-based merchandise market, corresponding to fertilizers, compost and different merchandise from aged manure.
“We’re connecting the enterprise economics with the good thing about environmental practices on farm and which means we’re creating this actually regularly bettering sustainable dairy business. And that is undoubtedly what we wish to deal with by way of our initiatives, “She stated.
For dairy business stakeholders seeking to enhance their sustainability or contribute to those targets, Scanlon recommends they begin by figuring out the place they’re. Farmers can do that with a farm environmental stewardship evaluation supplied by the Nationwide Milk Producers Federation. For dairy processors, the Innovation Heart not too long ago produced a guid to map out an organization’s sustainability journey.
As for manufacturers, she encourages them to come back to the desk and work with dairy by advancing analysis and pilots that assist or allow farms and processors. Two which can be already concerned embrace Nestle and Starbucks.