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Checkoff Watch: Food Chain Outreach efforts help companies connect with dairy’s commitments

Contributed by Angela Fredericks Anderson Published on 11 June 2021
Checkoff Watch

If an activist group contacted a major retailer or restaurant chain demanding a sourcing change for dairy, who would those companies turn to for an industry perspective?

The checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has become a go-to resource for them through its Food Chain Outreach team.

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The group was created to help these companies understand and be aware of and connected with dairy’s social responsibility and sustainability journey. Our work is at the category level – we don’t get involved in supplier/buyer relationships. It sometimes includes setting the record straight on farm practices that are countered by animal rights groups.

The Food Chain Outreach team is one example of how the mission of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is realized. Farmers created the Innovation Center to collaborate with the value chain so the U.S. dairy industry can define for ourselves who we are rather than have someone else do it for us.

Working with some of the largest food service, restaurant, retail and consumer packaged goods companies in the U.S. proactively builds understanding of the good work dairy is doing.

Our outreach begins with nearly 60 companies we have some level of conversation with about dairy’s social responsibility and sustainability efforts. We then zero in on about 20 with whom we maintain and strengthen relationships. These tend to be companies that generate high volumes of sales and have a greater influence in the marketplace.

In addition to helping manage risk, we find shared priorities and offer solutions to their business goals, including stories they can share with their consumer base of how they responsibly source dairy.

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We often work in conjunction with the National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program team. The FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) and Animal Care (AC) programs resonate effectively with these companies.

In addition to FARM, they are aware of U.S. dairy’s 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals, the Net Zero Initiative and the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment. These efforts provide important proof points they seek to support their business goals and objectives.

We also help connect them with other experts, including veterinarians, academic experts and, of course, dairy farmers. This has included hosting farm tours for company leaders.

Our industry’s collective efforts deliver a very clear message: America’s dairy farmers are following the best animal care and sustainability practices available. Presenting these proof points and facts can result in these companies having stronger support for dairy’s effort or not moving forward with a decision that could impact how they source their dairy foods.

As with any relationship, it sometimes takes time to build confidence and trust. Our work is an ongoing process, but the efforts are worth it. Some results of working together on shared priorities include:

  • Walmart: Launched in 2017, Project Gigaton was created by Walmart to avoid 1 billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from its global value chain by 2030. Through close work with Walmart’s sustainable food and agriculture team, FARM ES is an official part of Project Gigaton, making Walmart one of the first customers to use this farmer-funded tool to help report its climate goals.

  • McDonald’s: McDonald’s became one of the first food service companies to publicly support the FARM program on its corporate website. Our team and FARM worked closely with McDonald’s sustainability and animal welfare leads to help make this happen.

The Food Chain Outreach team will continue providing support to these companies and others when our insights and perspectives are needed. And we continue to proactively build understanding with these businesses of the good work farmers do every day.

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And that is good for dairy. end mark

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit U.S. Dairy or send a request to join our Dairy Checkoff Farmer Group on Facebook. To reach us directly, send an email to Talk To The Checkoff.

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

Angela Fredericks Anderson
  • Angela Fredericks Anderson

  • Vice President, Food Chain Outreach
  • Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc.

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