The U.S. dairy industry announced today that it has completed a carbon footprint study that measured the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with a gallon of milk in the United States. The carbon footprint study, together with data from additional studies measuring GHG emissions, helps validate that total U.S. dairy GHG emissions are approximately 2 percent of total U.S. emissions. This is far less than earlier figures reported about the global livestock industry that were incorrectly attributed to U.S. dairy.
Researchers followed the journey of a gallon of milk from the beginning of the life cycle when crops are grown to feed cows; milk is produced and delivered to processors; through processing, packaging and distribution; all the way to the purchase and disposal of the gallon of milk by the consumer. The completion of the study is a significant first step for the dairy industry in a comprehensive, science-based approach to measure and improve its environmental footprint.
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy commissioned the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas to conduct the GHG LCA of fluid milk, also called the carbon footprint study. Dr. Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas and lead investigator of the study, will present the findings tomorrow at the International Food LCA Conference.
The carbon footprint study identifies opportunities for efficiency and innovation across the fluid milk supply chain, including feed efficiency, manure management, energy management and fuel efficiency. A key finding indicates that management practices are an important driver of the carbon footprint for farms, plants and transportation fleets, rather than the geographic region, business model, or size of the farm or organization.
Dairy businesses across the country are already making changes that are environmentally and economically beneficial. The Innovation Center has collected a variety of success stories, case studies and best practices, providing a platform for industry partners to learn from one another and make informed decisions that suit their unique needs.
The carbon footprint study will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in 2011. In addition, studies on nutritional value, economic impact and other environmental measures such as water quality and conservation are under way as the industry seeks more ways to work together for a healthy planet.