Combined with other data, the carbon footprint study suggests that the total GHG emissions for the dairy industry are approximately 2% of total U.S. emissions, less than previous studies had suggested.
The study was conducted by the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas on behalf of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy – which is examining how the dairy industry as a whole can reduce its environmental footprint. The researchers followed a gallon of milk from the start of its life cycle when crops are grown for feeding cows, to when milk is produced and processed, to when it’s packaged and distributed. The study also evaluated the consumer’s purchase and disposal of a gallon of milk.
Researchers noted numerous opportunities for increased efficiency and sustainability measures throughout the milk life cycle. Areas for improvement include feed efficiency, manure management, energy management, and fuel efficiency. Researchers also discovered that management practices are the biggest factor affecting carbon footprints, as opposed to geographic region, business model, or farm size.
The Innovation Center keeps records of best practices, case studies, and other information to share with industry participants – and it already has ten projects underway that explore sustainability practices in the dairy industry. Over 500 volunteers from 300 organizations are devoting time, knowledge, and resources to these projects.
Volunteers include dairy industry employees, as well as specialists from academic, government and nongovernmental organizations such as University of Michigan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the World Wildlife Fund.
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