Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's, Burlington, Vt., said it formed a dairy advisory council comprising experts in environmental health, the animal protection movement, Lake Champlain water quality and organic farming to help the company achieve its newly refined “Values-Led Dairy Vision.” The company's vision is that all dairy used by Ben & Jerry's in the manufacture of its products will be sourced from dairy farms that have:
- Thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers.
- Exceptional animal welfare standards for cows;
- A flourishing ecosystem in which feed is grown ecologically, without use of harmful chemicals or GMOs, and in a way that protects water resources and promotes biological diversity.
- Farm operations acting as a net carbon sink through minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil.
"Our Values-Led Dairy Vision is based on what our fans have a right to expect of us," said Dave Rapaport, Ben & Jerry's global social mission officer. "While we're proud of the progress we've made over the past decade in helping farmers build soil health, improve animal welfare and increase the sustainability of their farms through our industry-leading Caring Dairy program, we know there is still a long way to go in achieving our vision. This new independent council will provide ideas and advice as we develop a long-term roadmap for our goals, with objectives and milestones along the way."
Ben & Jerry’s said each member of the dairy advisory council was chosen for his or her expertise in a certain field, and has been encouraged to challenge Ben & Jerry's assumptions and approach. The council members are:
- Dorn Cox, organic farmer and research director of Wolfe's Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment.
- Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension professor and agronomy specialist.
- Scott Faber, environmental advocate.
- Sarah Flack, grass-based livestock production consultant.
- Leah Garces, president of Mercy for Animals.
- Gary Kjelleren, chair of the Lake Champlain Committee.
The council's first meeting was held earlier this week.
"We expect this knowledgeable group of external stakeholders will keep us focused on our commitments and help us hold ourselves accountable," said Cheryl Pinto, Ben & Jerry's values-led sourcing manager. "We're proud of the work Vermont dairy farmers have done with Ben & Jerry's, and we know we have a long way to go to achieve our vision. Dairy farmers are facing increasingly complex issues, and we recognize the need for the council's advice and insight in helping us build a program which brings about beneficial outcomes for all."
Ben & Jerry's said it sources most of the milk and cream for North America from members of the St. Albans Cooperative. In 2011, the company initiated its Caring Dairy program to support family farms in sustainable agricultural practices, high-quality animal care and dignified conditions for farm workers. In 2017, the company reached a historic agreement to implement the worker-driven Milk with Dignity program, alongside Caring Dairy, to assure farm worker rights.