Greek yogurt maker Chobani LLC, the second-largest overall yogurt manufacturer in the United States, announced a comprehensive new program to further its commitment to positive transformation of its “milkshed” — supporting the economic, environmental and social impacts of its No. 1 ingredient: fresh milk from local farms. The Milk Matters program will encompass Chobani's commitment to its milkshed, as well as efforts to support greater transparency across dairy farms.
Milk Matters was designed to address the unprecedented challenges being faced by today's dairy industry, Norwich, N.Y.-based Chobani said. Many current industry programs and certifications, while well-intended, address single issues in isolation and haven't gone far enough to truly provide relief for struggling farms. Milk Matters takes a comprehensive approach to bringing transparency to dairy, providing meaningful support for the entire dairy community, and preserving long-term viability for the industry.
The program will include co-op partners, dairy farms and third-parties such as Fair Trade USA, the World Wildlife Fund, National Milk Producers Federation, Cornell University, state programs and community foundations in Idaho and New York to validate the continued progress, Chobani said. Milk Matters is working toward 100% implementation by 2025.
"Proud to share our vision for the future of dairy — from cows to people to planet,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani. “It's a small step with a big message: The future of dairy farmers matters to all of us.
“Dairy farms are the backbone of the communities we call home,” he added, “but the current model is broken, and it's leaving consumers questioning everything, including the treatment of animals, farm workers and the land itself. Our solution is simple but powerful. We all have a responsibility to support the farmers who make our business and our vision possible."
To develop this program, Chobani said it spent the past several years listening to farmers, farm workers, elected officials and experts across the dairy industry to create a comprehensive path forward. The company is proud to take a leadership position in the category at a time when dairy in the United States is at a moment of evolution. Chobani wants to empower consumers to feel confident in knowing where their dairy is from and the difference it is making.
"This is a big move for one of the important sectors of agriculture in the U.S. — creating shared trust, partnership and value between consumers, farms and brands with a Fair Trade USA standard for dairy," said Paul Rice, CEO, Fair Trade USA. "By funding the exploration and development of a standard that will be available to the entire dairy industry, Chobani is taking a real leadership position. We're thrilled to support an initiative that will drive continued progress, value and transparency across the dairy industry."
Many programs in dairy address issues in isolation. Chobani, by outlining six critical pillars, said it aims to change that with Milk Matters:
- Worker well-being — From safety and training programs to wage standards to a support hotline for outlier situations, Chobani will work with dairy cooperatives, farmers and farm workers to create a system where the dairy industry has the support they deserve. To achieve this, Chobani is collaborating with Fair Trade USA to explore a first-of-its-kind certification standard for U.S. dairy that protects and empowers dairy workers and provides meaningful premiums to benefit farmers and farm workers alike.
- Environmental stewardship — Chobani is collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and National Milk Producers Federation's Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) to reduce the company's carbon footprint and help farms do the same. These partners will measure greenhouse gas emissions and energy use on dairy farms within Chobani's supply chain to identify potential efficiency gains and cost savings for farmers, the company said.
- Animal care — All of the dairy cooperative farms from which Chobani sources today are participating in National Milk's Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care program and have completed an on-farm evaluation. By December 2019, all of the farms from which Chobani sources through the company's cooperative partners will comply with National Milk's FARM Version 3.0., the industry's highest standard for animal care.
- Local sourcing — Since day one, Chobani said it has been committed to sourcing fresh milk from local farms surrounding its manufacturing plants in Idaho and New York. Chobani is a member of the New York State Grown & Certified and Idaho Preferred programs, and local sourcing is an important way to support agricultural communities while ensuring the company’s products are as fresh and delicious as possible and that its carbon footprint is minimized.
- Investing in dairy communities — Every dairy maker has a responsibility to the communities that support them, Chobani noted. The company partnered with the Community Foundation for South Central New York and the Idaho Community Foundation with a plan to invest $2 million in grants over the next decade to fuel big ideas from local community organizations, expand economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship. And through the Chobani Scholars program, the company is funding multi-year scholarships at Cornell University and the University of Idaho for students of dairy farming families looking to pursue a degree in dairy science.
- Freedom and Flexibility for dairy farms — Chobani said it is giving farmers the freedom to farm as they know best. The company refuses to mandate the use of non-GMO feed, a practice it said places an undue financial burden on farms without enough demonstrated value to the planet or people. Additionally, to support farms for the future, Chobani partnered with the Cornell PRO-DAIRY program and New York State's Dairy Acceleration Program to help farms with fewer than 300 cows receive funding for small projects to address specific business needs. These funds will support business planning and improved profitability strategies through on-farm production techniques and aspects related to the day-to-day farm operation.
For more information about Chobani's Milk Matters program, visit https://www.chobani.com/impact/milk-matters/.