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Disrupting dairy’s disrupters with a plan for the ages

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In Food & Beverage Insider’s new Dairy digital magazine, we explore the innovative ways the dairy industry is executing to meet on-trend and sustainability demands. We also look at market data supporting claims that clean labels, functionality, local ingredients and technology play a major role in achieving those goals.

In Food & Beverage Insider’s new Dairy digital magazine, we explore the innovative ways the dairy industry is executing to meet on-trend and sustainability demands. We also look at market data supporting claims that clean labels, functionality, local ingredients and technology play a major role in achieving those goals.

Technology, in fact, is what’s helping dairy farmers become more efficient than ever in their practices, said Drew Ryder, co-founder of Vizen Analytics. Much of his experience comes from working directly with farmers and understanding the pressures they’re under for profitability.

During an engaging conversation with this agriculture veteran of more than 20 years, he explained how new technology is helping dairy farmers take better care of the livestock producing milk for mass consumption. With labor issues affecting the farming industry, he said, it’s up to robotics to fill the gap to ensure animals are properly managed.

“How an animal is fed can make a big difference in terms of how that animal does healthwise, whether or not it grows fast enough, all of this profitable for the farmer,” said Ryder, who has spent the last 20 years developing technology to monitor livestock production. “The farmer has no incentive to mistreat an animal or crowd more of them into a pen. They’re going to follow practices that are going to make the animal as healthy and comfortable as possible so they will produce products that are better for you.”

Vizen Analytics is also working on new methods to detect disease earlier in livestock, continued Ryder. “The more we can identify these problems early,” he said, “the faster we can get treatment, which is better for the animals.”

Equally important is the U.S. dairy industry setting an ambitious, sustainable goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Ryder said it may be achieved “with some practices that come through scale.” One noteworthy practice he said is happening now is smaller dairy farms collaborating with each other to cut down on emissions, transportation, and even feed for the livestock.  

“What the industry’s done very well as it’s gotten bigger is that instead of having less than 100 cows on a dairy farm, producers will have hundreds or thousands of them at a time because it’s better utilization of labor,” Ryder explained. “[For instance] if you put more animals in one location, the cost to transport the feed is much lower. Right there you are reducing emissions.”

In the digital issue’s Brand Roundtable, Nathalie Dunand-Zaloum of Bel Brands further described how her company plans to execute sustainability through 2035.

“We aim at reducing the emissions across our full value chain by 25% between 2017 and 2035, and our plan is backed up by science-based targeting,” said Dunand-Zaloum, marketing director, CSR and strategic planning, Bel Brands. “One of the most ambitious aspects of the plan is the launch of a three-year pilot program in partnership with Land O’Lakes to adopt sustainable farming and animal feed production methods to reduce greenhouse gas admissions.

“In just one year, the program has seen meaningful results, including a carbon sink of 784 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per acre per year. In 2022, the program will expand to include five additional farms ranging in size from 450 to 2,000 cows.” 

With the world’s population hitting 8 billion by year’s end, according to the United Nations, there will be more mouths to feed than ever before. What would be a tall order for plant-based dairy to fill would come naturally for the dairy industry.

That means better ice cream and cheese for everyone.

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