U.S. Dairy unveils sustainability research, tool

May 1, 2013

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has announced new science-based resources available for dairy producers, processors, industry partners, and stakeholders. The resources help the industry act on the unprecedented scientific research commissioned as part of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment—a collective effort of the dairy value chain to measure and improve the sustainability of U.S. dairy from farm to table. The Innovation Center, established under the leadership of dairy producers, launched the Sustainability Commitment in 2008.

As part of this commitment, the dairy industry initiated a series of scientific lifecycle assessments (LCA) of fluid milk, cheese, and whey. With this body of work, the U.S. dairy industry is striving to create the most transparent and documented dairy LCA database available. Due in part to its science-based approach, it was chosen to be the pilot industry participating in the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to provide an open-access, prototype LCA database and tools.

“We are very glad to have the dairy industry’s leadership,” said Simon Liu, Director of the National Agricultural Library at the USDA. “The goal is to continue to expand the data in the National Agricultural Library so that we can advance the science and meet the growing demand for quantitative data that helps to identify opportunities for innovation and improvement.”

The three new resources available include:

  • U.S. Dairy’s Environmental Footprint, a quick reference guide that taps into the public’s interest in learning about the foods they eat and the environmental impact of their choices. The book features easy-to-read information and graphics explaining LCAs and the journey of a gallon of milk from the beginning of the lifecycle when crops are grown to feed cows and milk is produced, through processing, packaging, distribution and finally to the purchase, consumption, and packaging disposal of a gallon of milk by the consumer.
  • A scientific publication, a special issue of the International Dairy Journal, which features 10 peer-reviewed articles highlighting findings from the fluid milk LCAs (April 2013 issue).
  • Farm Smart, an online tool currently in development, which combines key learning from the research with engineering and best management practices to help dairy producers calculate their environmental footprints. The goal of Farm Smart, available at USDairy.com/FarmSmart, is to integrate scientific analysis with farm-specific data to provide powerful, yet easy-to-use decision-making tools for dairy producers. It is currently focused on voluntary self-assessment in four environmental areas: energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, and water use. Future versions of the tool will help producers identify and assess management practices in order to be as cost-efficient and productive as possible.

Press release