Consumer perception part of dairy’s cow methane battle

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dairy production Bovine somatotropin Dairy farming Greenhouse gas

As stakeholders across the dairy supply chain look to put cows’ backsides at the forefront of efforts to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, researchers suggest consumer acceptance will be a major factor in any successful solution.

In the first of a two-part report, looks at how the global industry is responding to calls to find new production methods for a more sustainable dairy sector, starting right at the beginning of the supply chain.

Agriculture intensive industries such as meat and dairy production have come under attack from certain environmental groups in recent years over concerns regarding their potential contributions to GHG output from livestock.

As part of a wider commitment by the dairy industry to play up their green claims, reducing emissions of gas like methane from cows is one major area for development.

Consumer concerns

US-based ​Dairy Management Inc (DMI), which aims to support industry-wide research, says despite a global impetus to pursue reductions in dairy GHG emissions, responding to safety needs and consumer perceptions were key challenges for the focus.

Consumer concerns about certain livestock treatments have led to some major industry shifts for dairy production in the US alone.

Recent backlash from some manufacturers in the US to the use of growth hormones like recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) in cows has led to a growing number of processors and retailers adding ‘no-rBST’ labels to their goods.

While current innovation is predominantly targeting feed initiatives to cut the amounts of methane reaching the atmosphere through dairy production, Rick Naczi, head of DMI’s sustainability operations for the Innovation Center for US Dairy, said a variety of potential solutions would be studied.

“It is our responsibility to consider any innovation that may improve cow nutrition and efficiency while still producing safe, healthy products,”​ he stated.

While Naczi stressed that DMI’s work was science-based, the group says it is also undertaking research to account for the consumer factor in devising greener farm strategies.

“We are also conducting consumer research and working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that represent the consumer point of view,”​ he stated.

Eco attacks

Last year, Sustain, which claims to be an alliance for sustainable food production, was just one of the organisations named by farmers’ groups as attempting to discourage dairy and meat consumption due to the contributions of livestock farming to GHG emissions.

The environmental group proposed a choice-edit system of menus and food offerings in a bid to cut the carbon footprint of what we eat.

The second part of this article, which will look at the current innovation and commitments being pursued by the industry, will appear on tomorrow.

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