Sustainability is a more important topic now than any time in the recent past for American companies, and the dairy sector is no exception. While the dairy industry has long-understood impacts on nutrition and diets for many Americans, it also plays a role in areas like climate change, animal welfare, soil fertility and several others within the realm of sustainability.
At Idaho Milk Products, we’re happy to serve our role within the dairy manufacturing world, providing milk protein concentrate products, cream and several others across numerous industries and applications. Both in terms of our processes and those found throughout other parts of the broad dairy industry, how is sustainability maintained? Here’s a general primer.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
A major focus of the dairy industry in general over the last couple of decades, especially at the farming and processing level, has been the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In the US, dairy contributes just 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions across the sector, compared to 28% for the transportation industry. In the last 10 years, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk has decreased substantially, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint. That said, the entire dairy industry has made a commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
To reduce this footprint at Idaho Milk Products, we focus on several key areas. First, managing wastewater at our plant is a top priority. All wastewater from the facility gets reused and recycled back into our processes. We also generate very little solid waste through the course of manufacturing each day. And we’ve invested in new technology and equipment like upgraded pumps and piping that circulate water to the evaporative cooling towers, cutting our electricity use by 540,000 kilowatt hours annually.
Dairy producers at every level are taking their own steps toward more sustainable practices. Farms, for instance, can take measures to reduce fossil fuel usage and advance energy efficiency, such as installing anaerobic digesters which convert methane to electricity. Processors, through the equipment they use, can also reduce overall consumption there as well (just like we do at Idaho Milk Products). Manufacturing facilities themselves can be designed to make efficient use of both natural resources and water too.
Animal Welfare and Health
It’s a simple reality that for a long period of time, many US dairy farms did not properly account for animal welfare and health – but that’s changed over the last decade or so. Farms and other livestock centers have taken several serious steps to maintain animal health and welfare, ensuring that cows are well-fed and taken care of. Most participate in the national FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program.
Idaho Milk Products takes it a step further. All of our owner-dairies are certified for excellent animal welfare through Validus, the gold standard in animal welfare certification. Healthy and happy cows remain a top priority for Idaho Milk Products.
Soil Quality and Nutrients
Another major sustainability effort within the dairy world, one that’s also mostly targeted at the farming and manufacturing sectors of this industry, involves improving soil quality, fertility and nutrient management. Nutrient cycling in this case takes into account several key factors. These include how agricultural runoff and other factors can impact water quality (and even the climate) and nutrition over time. For dairy farms in particular, nutrient management takes into account how both livestock operations and crop production impact the surrounding earth.
Biodiversity is a broad category, one that’s often associated with wildlife conservation in general. Here, we’re specifically talking about how biodiversity applies to the dairy industry, especially at those higher up in the supply chain (producers and processors).
Both animals and crops play important roles here. From a crop standpoint, milk is obviously an incredibly relevant product for many Americans across the country each day — but the dairy industry also produces other food items, crops and even renewable energy from many of these waste products.
From an animal standpoint, it’s important to remember that cows are not the only animals in this world (though they are a big part of our daily operations). Species like deer, buffalo, sheep and goats are all relevant players here as well. When properly managed, these animals can not only help with nutrient recycling but also creating new sources of income across the dairy supply chain.
Water Quality and Quantity
Water plays a huge role in the dairy manufacturing and processing world. In many ways, it’s the lifeblood of this industry — and that’s why sustainable water management is crucial across every level of dairy production.
It starts with responsible farming and irrigation practices while on the farm itself, where modern technology takes over for older tools. Processors take a more active role in this process too, with some of the world’s largest dairy brands taking a leading position in ensuring water quality and quantity is managed responsibly on every level.
Finally, because so much of dairy production comes from rural communities, it’s vital for the industry as a whole to support these communities in any way it can. This means taking care of the environment, fostering habitats and more — but it also means supporting a way of life for many families.
On the farm, this includes ensuring that farmers have access to knowledge and support tools needed to remain competitive in an ever-changing market. For processors, this may mean partnering with dairy farms to sell products in a way that also ensures long-term availability. For companies like Idaho Milk Products, it means taking pride in our own corporate footprint and working with suppliers to ensure we’re meeting all of our sustainability goals on every level.
For more on sustainability within the milk production world, or to learn about any of our dairy ingredients or other products, speak to the staff at Idaho Milk Products today.