Environmental research

U.S. dairy’s environmental footprint book cover

Starting with science

Dairy sustainability starts with open-source, peer-reviewed science about the environmental impacts of dairy products. In fact, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy already has completed studies for fluid milk and cheese. By accurately estimating where we are, we can make a plan for the future.

The basics

Life cycle management is the leading method for determining and managing opportunities for improvement and adaptation. It provides an understanding of the environmental impact of dairy production from “grass to glass.” The U.S. dairy industry uses the LCA to identify areas of greatest impact and develop management strategies and tools for improvement.

Completed studies

The life cycle assessment (LCA) studies for milk and cheese conducted for the U.S. dairy industry were unprecedented in size and scope, and the peer-review process ensured credible results. For example, the detailed surveys of 536 individual farms, 50-plus processing plants and 200,000-plus transportation trips and extensive secondary sources of data established that U.S. dairy accounts for 2 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The data set will be included in the LCA Digital Commons of the National Agriculture Library.
Milk processing plant

Research abstracts

What are the greenhouse gas emissions associated with milk production in the United States? Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement? This research abstract provides an overview of study methodology and findings, including goal, scope, functional unit, data collection and results.

Catalog of USDA survey questions related to dairy sustainability

The USDA conducts surveys to gather information and statistics on agriculture. This Excel file is a searchable catalog of the questions from recent USDA surveys relevant to dairy sustainability topics. The catalog includes questions from the Census of Agriculture, NAHMS Dairy, ARMS Dairy, and FRIS surveys. Also included are survey questions from the Innovation Center’s life cycle assessment.

Applying the science

Informed by the dairy life cycle assessments, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® has developed  the Stewardship and Sustainability Framework for U.S. Dairy, a framework for dairy farms and dairy processors to voluntarily measure and report on sustainability indicators.
Farmer holding fiber

Peer-reviewed articles

The April 2013 issue of the International Dairy Journal features 10 peer-reviewed articles highlighting findings from the fluid milk life cycle assessments commissioned by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®.