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The impacts of liquid milk: environment, society and economy

Initiated by the Dairy Supply Chain Forum’s Sustainable Consumption and Production Taskforce, this project was funded by Defra and led by Chris Foster at Eugeos, with Delta-innovation providing support to the interpretation of data with respect to milk production. The project reviewed the evidence concerning the impacts of liquid milk production, processing, retailing and consumption on the environment, society and economy and identified the potential for these impacts to be lessened.

Solutions to reduce the impacts of dairying were identified as (i) promoting the necessity of matching feed to yield to maximise efficiency (as output per cow), (ii) developing initiatives to benchmark on-farm energy and water use / water management and adopting the means to reduce usage across the sector, (iii) examining how fertiliser application and use might be made more effective at the farm-level, through the greater use of support tools designed for this process, and through the use of new technologies, (iv) encouraging the application of “best available techniques” in all milk processing, (v) encouraging the uptake of best practice in the operation of refrigeration systems, and of new refrigeration technologies. Pursuing some potentially beneficial changes in farm practice (e.g. moving towards a bias for calving to occur in the spring) was considered likely to require change by processors, retailers and perhaps consumers, notably: addressing the demand for milk (particularly fresh milk) in periods when production is ‘least environmentally efficient’ and reviewing the price incentives for autumn calving; addressing the market-pull for lower-impact milk and (with processors and farmers) examining how this might be incentivised at farm-level. 

Project Partners: 
Manchester Business School
Cranfield University