Seven questions around sustainable dairy

There are a number of areas of concern when it comes to sustainable dairy; here, Christina Marantelou explores several of them alongside ways in which the sector is finding resolve.

Food production and consumption have been recognised as major sources of environmental impacts. The challenge of meeting the dietary requirements of an increasing world population is stimulating fierce debate about the sustainability of current food production systems, with particular reference to meat and dairy productions.

Dairy processors worldwide are aware of their sector’s shortcomings regarding sustainability issues. While the sector undoubtedly contributes to nutritious and healthy diets, it also impacts climate change, animal welfare, biodiversity and soil fertility.1 Conventional dairy production entails processes that contribute to climate change, acidification, eutrophication, and ozone depletion,2,3 and its overall carbon footprint is comparable to that of aviation and shipping combined.4,5 While the search for more efficient and sustainable processes has become the cornerstone of any production system, it is ultimately an integral part of business operations too.

However, we first must answer some crucial questions: what is needed to improve sustainability in the dairy chain; which practices are available for different farm types; and how can we ensure that these practices are really implemented by farmers?

Initially, we must address the seven main dairy sustainability topics.