Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Checkoff Watch: New sustainability report highlights progress in three areas

Published on 24 August 2015

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has published the fifth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report to share the industry’s sustainability efforts and progress with people who are interested in sustainably produced milk and dairy foods. The goal is to build continued consumer trust and increase sales of dairy foods and beverages.

Dairy farms and companies have been working together since 2008 to bring together the science, tools, resources and partnerships needed to measure, improve and communicate sustainability progress. For example, Prairie Farms Dairy and McDonald’s Corporation put the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy and the accompanying Farm Smart tool to the test in a pilot. (See below)



The new report, published this month, features progress in three areas.

Community impact

This section highlights the ways dairy farms and companies are working to meet the highest standards in food safety, health and wellness, community support, employee health and safety, and animal care. For example:

  • Dairy traceability: By the end of 2014, dairy businesses that represent 73 percent of the U.S. milk supply committed to adopt voluntary best practices for dairy traceability.
  • Health and wellness benefits of dairy: Did you know that making oatmeal with low-fat milk rather than water delivers two-and-a-half times the protein of oats made with water, plus fiber and nine key vitamins and minerals?

    In 2014, National Dairy Council and Quaker Oats Company shared the benefits of oats and dairy with an estimated 141,000 health and wellness professionals (and, by extension, with their more than 7.5 million weekly clients.)

Animal care

A recent survey of consumer attitudes showed that 43 percent of respondents were interested in learning more about on-farm animal care practices. Dairy farmers are responding to this growing consumer interest by sharing their animal care commitments and practices.

By year-end 2014, more than 85 percent of the nation’s milk supply came from farms that follow the National Dairy FARM Program guidelines, up from approximately
70 percent the prior year.


Environmental stewardship

No-till farming, water recycling and anaerobic digester systems are some of the adaptive, resource-efficient practices highlighted in this section, which covers continuous improvement in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving and safeguarding water supplies and land stewardship/biodiversity, soil health and air quality.

In addition, the report explains the valuable role dairy has to play in a sustainable food system through nutrient recovery.

Online resources

View thethe 2014 Sustainability Report

To learn more about the Prairie Farms/McDonald’s pilot test, visit YouTube.

Test your answer:

What is the intended benefit of communicating sustainability progress on dairy farms?

ANSWER: America’s dairy farmers have a long history of doing more with less. Communicating this progress through sustainability reporting helps to build consumer trust and confidence in dairy foods and beverages.


prairie farms logo

Co-op spotlight

Ryan Murphy
Director of McDonald’s Operations for Prairie Farms Dairy

Why did Prairie Farms participate in the supply chain sustainability pilot?

Prairie Farms represents more than 600 farm families who have a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship. We wanted to assess how well the Innovation Center tools and resources could help us continue to do the very best we can – from farm to fleet to processing plant.

What are the benefits of having a unified approach to sustainability?

It made sense to work with McDonald’s, a valued business partner of ours for many years, so that we can align our efforts to measure and assess sustainability progress and build consumer confidence in the dairy industry. We’re all in it together: the farmer, the processor and the retailer.

What was your rolein developing the guide?

We participated in working groups to identify the topics that matter most when assessing the sustainability of dairy farms and dairy processing/manufacturing. These topics are defined in the guide and measured in Farm Smart, but the best way to be sure these resources have value is to test them in real-world supply chains.

nutrient cycle graphic

Beginning in 2013, we were one of the first dairy companies to pilot the Innovation Center’s sustainability tools. Beyond testing their usability and utility, this pilot fostered a deep sense of partnership within our supply chain.

Through on-farm visits from McDonald’s staff, farmers had a firsthand opportunity to learn about their customers’ emerging sustainable supply expectations, and McDonald’s sustainability and supply leads had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm to experience where their milk comes from by talking directly with farmers.

What’s next?

The guide will be reviewed and expanded over time. Later this year, a draft version of the new topics and indicators for farms and processors will be published for review and feedback. We encourage you to have a look.

GRAPHIC: The Environmental Stewardship section of 2014 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report uses a graphic of the nutrient cycle to introduce people to the important role dairy farms play in a sustainable food system by optimizing nutrients and resources in a closed-loop system.

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – This update is provided by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was established under the leadership of dairy producers to align the collective resources of the industry against common priorities. The Innovation Center is staffed by Dairy Management Inc.