Do Consumers Care About Dairy’s Sustainability Story?

  • 3 min read April 1, 2024

We all know the feeling – the environment is a hot topic, and nearly every industry seems to be under scrutiny, including dairy. Consumers are increasingly curious about where their food comes from and its environmental impact. In fact, research shows that nearly one-third have stopped purchasing products they believe have a negative impact on the environment.

That's why the dairy checkoff is working to shift the conversation. Through our "See Dairy Differently" initiative, we're highlighting farmers’ longstanding commitment to responsible production.

A farmer is more than a farmer, which is the inspiration behind our consumer outreach efforts. We know you are the chief financial officer, meteorologist, nutritionist, engineer and steward of the land and livestock in your care.

But, most consumers have never met a farmer. With less than 2% of Americans directly involved with production agriculture, it is important we reach consumers where they’re at with messages they care about. That’s why the checkoff is working to reach consumers and thought leaders, including college professors, media members and others who influence a wider audience.



Climate impact is a top priority, with 50% of consumers saying it is a consideration when buying dairy products. They want to feel good about the food they purchase. The checkoff team addresses this by sharing stories, research data, and information about your sustainable practices through social media, major news outlets and our own dedicated channels.

While important, storytelling is only part of the conversation. Would you purchase a new feed additive only because someone told you the cows would make more milk? Probably not. You’d likely want some proof through feed trials or other farmers’ real-world experience before committing. Similarly, consumers who are taking a critical look at the products they purchase also seek proof behind the claims. That’s where our research and science efforts come into play.

Here are some key initiatives we’re involved in to help develop and demonstrate dairy’s sustainability story:

Dairy Scale for Good: Checkoff and other sponsors are partnering with real dairy farms, not research farms, to demonstrate the ability to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality while diversifying on-farm income. These farms are spread across the country and represent a various management styles and infrastructure.

“It’s important to remember that not all farms will be expected to duplicate the technologies and practices on DS4G partner farms. But we expect all farms will benefit from the learnings and find their own path to benefit from the markets in some way.” – Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer & DMI Board Chair

Greener Cattle Initiative: This program, created by the checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, focuses on developing strategies to reduce methane emissions from cattle. In 2023, the Greener Cattle Initiative awarded more than $5 million in grants to help researchers explore a range of solutions, from specialized feed formulations to manure management systems, even venturing into technologies that capture and convert methane into clean energy sources.

Sustainable Nutrition: Connecting farm data with nutrition data creates a compelling case and “permission” for people who may have some questions before consuming dairy.  The checkoff’s National Dairy Council established the Dairy Nourishes Network to bring together food, nutrition, health and wellness professionals and sustainable food systems experts to explore how dairy foods are an important part of nourishing people, while also being mindful of the planet.

We know farmers are the original sustainability experts. Our efforts across research, science and consumer outreach are designed to set the record straight and share the story of the work farmers have been doing for generations.

Curious to see how the checkoff program is working on your behalf? Visit our website at and follow us on social media – Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. To help reach an even wider audience, consider sharing these resources on your social channels with a personal story about your farm.