Dairy Processor News

Dairy's carbon footprint dropping

October 14, 2008
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

Improved efficiency in the production of milk has resulted in a huge reduction in the dairy industry's carbon footprint, making it very “green,” said a University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist.

“Using 1944 as the base year of comparison, and also the year of the largest number of dairy cows in the United States, the number of dairy cows has dropped from 25.6 million to 9.2 million cows, while milk production has increased from 117 billion pounds to 186 billion pounds,” U of I’s Mike Hutjens said, as reported at CattleNetwork.com. “Using pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of milk as the carbon footprint value, the dairy industry’s footprint has dropped from 31 pounds in 1944 to 12 pounds per gallon in 2007.”

Dairy cattle’s environmental impact continues in the news as global warming concerns are raised due to methane production and carbon dioxide relationships involved in the industry, Hutjens said. “Dairy cows produce methane when digesting feed in the rumen. Methane has 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide,” he said. “While a wide range of claims have been made, 6 percent of the total carbon footprint is from agriculture with dairy responsible for 11 percent of the total 6 percent, or 0.7 percent of the total.”

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Science published a paper that addressed the improvement of milk production efficiency and the impact of organic dairy production compared to conventional production.

“The paper showed that if one million of the total nine million U.S. dairy cows produced 10 pounds more milk per day due to the adoption of technology, a number of positive impacts could be expected,” Hutjens said. “It would reduce by 157,000 the number of cows needed to produce the same level of milk. It would reduce by 219,000 hectares the land needed for feed production. It would reduce the emission of methane by 41 million kilograms annually. And it would reduce manure excretion by 2.8 million tons each year.”

Switching to organic milk production would require 25 percent more cows than now used, 30 percent more land for feed production, 39 percent more nitrogen excretion and a 13 percent increase in global warming potential.

What does this mean to consumers?

“For consumers, it means a careful analysis is required to determine if carbon footprint and global warming applications are more important than denying technology applications, especially when that technology does not change nutrient content of food or impact animal health,” Hutjens said. “For dairy managers, increasing milk production efficiency will reduce carbon footprint, improve nitrogen efficiency, and reduce global warming. Dairy managers who do this are increasingly more ‘green.’”

The bottom line, Hutjens said, is that when it comes to the environment, using fewer resources to produce more food will improve the carbon footprint.


Source: Illinois Ag Extension

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Dairy Foods Magazine. 
You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Agropur, Natrel Division USA, St. Paul, Minn.

 At its Natrel Division plant in St. Paul, Minn, Agropur makes rBST-free white and flavored milk, heavy whipping cream, half n half, buttermilk, organic milk, nutritional drinks and shakes and sport drinks. Nondairy beverages (soy, rice, coconut, and almond) coffee creamers, broth and sauces. 


This photo gallery contains additional, unpublished photos of dairy processing facilities featured in Dairy Foods magazine. To view more Behind the Scenes galleries go to our archives page!

6/19/14 2:00 pm EDT

Build a Better Cheese

On Demand Professor John A. Lucey of the University of Wisconsin, Madison will cover defects in cheese, improving yield with processing techniques to get the most from the ingredients you've paid for, the regulatory scene, and the future.

Ice Cream

What’s your favorite way to eat ice cream?
View Results Poll Archive

Dairy Foods Magazine

dairy foods july 2014

2014 July

Read the 2014 Buyers Guide and Sourcebook, your one source for ingredients, equipment and packaging.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


Tharp & Young on Ice Cream: An Encyclopedic Guide to Ice Cream Science and Technology

An at once an all-inclusive guide to the meaning of hundreds of technical terms and ideas needed for ice cream manufacturing, as well as a practical introduction to the ingredients, freezing methods, flavoring, and packaging of ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurts, novelties and many other kinds of frozen desserts.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Dairy Foods Buyers Guide

cover df july 2013Resource for buyers in the dairy processing industry to find information on the leading suppliers and manufacturers.

Find Ingredients, Equipment, Distribution, R&D and More.

Start Your Search Today.


Facebook logo 40px 2-12-13 Twitter logo 40px 2-12-13  YouTube logo 40px 2-12-13  LinkedIn logo 40px 2-12-13google plus