A fun tradition for many is to eat and drink green in celebration of St Patrick’s Day. While in years past this has meant enjoying a stack of green pancakes or a kale smoothie, many today choose to challenge themselves to eat green through foods that are environmentally good for the planet, such as dairy products.
This can seem tricky. Food production—like all activities and necessities— has an environmental footprint, which is a measurement of how quickly humans consume resources and create waste compared to how quickly this waste is absorbed and replaced with new resources.
Dairy Products and Eating Green
Sustainable farming practices minimize the dairy industry’s environmental footprint. In 2008, the US dairy industry conducted a full life cycle assessment at the national level. The results showed the dairy industry contributes to approximately 2% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, producing a gallon of milk used 90% less land and 65% less water, with a 63% smaller carbon footprint than in 1944. And with the implementation of more innovative dairy farming practices, the impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk even more, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land, and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.
Dairy farmers decrease the environmental impact of dairy farming while tending to their animals and managing their land, air, and water resources. Even with so much to manage, the dairy industry has found more areas for improvement!
Methane presents a greater short-term risk for atmospheric warming when compared to other greenhouse gases, but with a much shorter lifespan. Farmers are focused on decreasing methane produced by cows and harnessing what methane is released. Solutions for reducing methane produced include changing a cow’s diet. To collect methane, farmers practice manure management to create power. In terms of feeding cows, feed production research examines strategies and practices that will help reduce the release of greenhouse gases.
Choose to Eat and Drink Green
The dairy community is committed to making further progress. By 2050, the industry vows to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality, optimize water use, and improve water quality.
This St. Patrick’s Day, recognize the efforts of farmers across the country and eat green by choosing dairy.