Opinion: Angelique Hollister

Sustainability is in our interest
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The responsibility of creating a sustainable and eco-conscious F&B industry cannot be swept under the carpet with token efforts. Operators — large and small — must step up to the plate and acknowledge that impacting the present is the key to shaping the future.

Food consumption in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to rise to 59.2 million metric tonnes in 2021. Regional economies including the United Arab Emirates (UAE)  are food secure but often recognize challenges posed by factors related to resources conservation and feeding an expanding global population.

 A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Global Dairy Platform, found that North America is leading the world when it comes to efforts to reduce dairy greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. North America was the only region of the seven studied where both emissions intensity and absolute emissions fell for the timeframe of the report (2005-2015) while overall milk production rose.

It might be surprising to learn that the United States is also the largest single-country producer of cow’s milk in the world. From this high-quality year-round production, over 600-varieties of cheeses and a multitude of dairy ingredients and powders are available to support evolving customer needs.

With a long history of responsible land, animal and resource stewardship, U.S. dairy farmers and processors are upping the ante with investments in systems and facility design to minimize water use, energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste whilst maintaining a high yield. Thanks to advanced cow care, genetics and nutrition, U.S. dairy farmers produce more milk from fewer cows—requiring a lot less water and less land—than they did 60 years ago. This is further to the adoption of waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements across U.S. dairy farms.

Water is one area of focus for recycling and responsible use on U.S. farms and with processors turning the milk into products that can be transported far and wide like cheeses and dairy ingredients. On-farm anaerobic digester systems are utilized to sometimes benefit not just the farms but also the larger community. Processing household food waste that is able to mix with manure in the digester, methane is captured and converted to electricity. U.S. dairy farmers also emit about 45 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk produced compared to the global average, serving as a sustainable model for dairy farmers. Key dairy products are responsibly produced against defined criteria for important areas like animal care, the environment and food safety.

The U.S. dairy industry remains committed to exports — and has the infrastructure, including land and natural resources to expand and feed a growing world population. The current world population is 7.6 billion and the United Nations projects it will be 9.8 billion by the year 2050. Higher living standards will increase demand also supported by population growth. Food production must increase by 50 percent or more to feed that many people.  With more companies in the region now also serving export markets, the increased spotlight on sustainability comes at a good time. Customers, both local and overseas, are increasingly more discerning, closely examining their suppliers from the standpoint of sustainability, looking at business practices, from the farm all the way through distribution.

Angelique Hollister, is the vice president, cheese marketing at the US Dairy Council

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