Tim Pierson, MS, RDN, CDN
Washington State Dairy Council
Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir, can play a vital role in a well-balanced and sustainable diet. In fact, healthy diets containing dairy products have been linked to health benefits such as reduced cardiovascular disease risk, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, and even weight management.
For centuries—at least as far back as 3,000 B.C.E—dairy has provided critical nutrients necessary for a healthy life. Once known as the “white elixir” the importance of dairy in the diet remains to this day. Whether it is preventing disease, building bones, or providing economically and sustainably friendly nutrients, dairy can have a role in every healthy diet.
As our farmers look to provide for the future, dairy can play a crucial role in ensuring we can feed the growing global population at a reasonable price, without contributing to the decline of the environment. As a matter of fact, dairy farmers across the U.S. have already started to protect the environment, be it the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the land we use. Dairy farmers in the state of Washington are working hard to provide delicious and nutritious products at a low cost without harming the environment. As we look to the future, dairy farmers are using new technology and employing new techniques to become GHG neutral, or better by 2050.
According to a life cycle assessment for fluid milk commissioned in 2007, U.S. dairy contributes only 2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Coupled with a rigorous and third-party reviewed materiality assessment, the industry prioritized the most pressing areas of environmental sustainability as the foundation for the 2050 goals:
1. Become GHG neutral
2. Optimize water use while maximizing recycling
3. Improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients
These goals have come about based on decades of improvements in dairy farming that have contributed to greater sustainable practices in production and quality of dairy, whilst supplying affordable nutrients to the population.
Not only do dairy farmers provide an incredibly nutritious product, but they also give back to a sustainable economy. In 2018, Washington dairy provided 57,635 jobs, whilst contributing $3.2 billion USD in wages with a combined economic impact of $11.6 billion USD.
With all of the efforts and strides being made to ensure our land, water, and air are protected, dairy pulls through today, and even more in the future, as a solution to feeding our children, families, and the globe. For more information on the commitment dairy farmers have made in being sustainable, please visit the US Dairy Innovation Center’s website.