OAK BROOK, ILL. – Executives within the dairy industry highlighted during a panel discussion at the 2022 Dairy Sustainability Alliance Spring Meeting how important it is for dairy to maximize its environmental efforts.

Brad Anderson, president and chief executive officer of California Dairies, Inc., pointed out that sustainability has become mainstream.

“Maybe five, eight years ago, you had sustainability experts talking to sustainability experts,” he said, “but I rarely talk with a customer where the conversation doesn’t start with ‘What are you doing around some form of sustainability?’”

Anderson said dairy has a “big opportunity” to lead and build what consumers are expecting in the realm of sustainable practices.

“Absent of that, someone else will fill that void,” Anderson said. “Whether you’re on a farm or in a processing facility or a co-op or any other capacity in the marketplace, your role is really important, because the consumers are demanding it and that demand will be greater tomorrow than it is today.”

Dairy Management Inc. chair Marilyn Hershey during the discussion also brought up how it is critical to find practices that make sense for budgets.

“It’s very important for us to be stable economically,” Hershey said. “And how does sustainability fit into that? You have that two-way street where there is concern about sustainability and the cost of it, but then you realize the customers are asking for it, so it’s a necessary step for us.”

During another portion of the spring meeting, the focus turned to the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Looking at how US dairy can play a part in those efforts, the US Dairy Export Council’s senior vice president of sustainability and multilateral affairs, Nick Gardner, said that the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 created further momentum at the highest levels of government to take actions that will reduce the impact food production has on the environment.

Gardner also called attention to how the US and the United Arab Emirates started a joint initiative called the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, which seeks to address both climate change and global hunger by making sure participants make more investments in climate smart agriculture and other food systems innovations.

One aspect of the AIM for Climate is the Greener Cattle Initiative, created by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The Greener Cattle Initiative was established to reduce enteric methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle.