How sustainable is the dairy industry?
My family gifted me a milk frother for Mother’s Day. (And by that I mean, I bought myself one and said don’t worry about getting me a gift.)
I’ve found real cream with a splash of milk and some flavoring creates the perfect cold foam for my iced coffee. “Fancy” chain coffee was already expensive before inflation, so I’ve been saving money copycatting my favorite drinks.
Plus, I love supporting local dairy farms. Modern dairy farms continue to be an incredible story of continuous improvement when it comes to sustainability and animal care.
- A gallon of milk produced in 2017 required 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint compared to ten years prior.
- A dairy cow today produces 6 to 7 gallons of milk in a day. This is 2.5 times more milk than 50 years ago with 30% fewer cows.
- One-third of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Cows help cut down the greenhouse gas emissions associated with this waste by eating food parts that cannot be digested by humans like corn cobs, cottonseed hulls and almond shells.
- The U.S. dairy industry is responsible for only 2% of the nation’s greenhouse gas inventory. Yet, if dairy cows were removed from the U.S., greenhouse gas emissions wouldn’t even reduce by a full percent. However, it could create a nutritional deficit.
Technology has improved dairy farming by increasing cow comfort with cleaning systems, rotating back scratchers, robotic milkers and animal health tracking. Healthier, relaxed animals have a better impact on the environment because they tend to produce more—just like many of us when we go to work!
Data is recorded and kept on each cow, from how much milk she produces, her activity level, health statistics and more. This allows farmers to know when an individual cow needs attention and provide care.
Today’s cows like being milked and are milked two to three times per day. Some even “wait in line” or try to sneak back in to visit the milking robot so they can get a treat (as you can see from the Iowa Dairy Farmer, Dan Venteicher, in the video below).
By focusing on animal care and innovation, dairy farms continue to be sustainable. In fact, the U.S. dairy industry has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. For those of us who enjoy dairy foods and care for the planet, that will be the icing on the cake—or, the foam on the cold brew. If that’s your thing, too.
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