Is Milk Environmentally Friendly?

I am kind of a recycling nut. I feel horribly guilty any time I throw anything plastic away. Basically I feel like a baby polar bear was watching and judging me.

Regardless, I like Earth Day.

Earth Day is a good reminder of all the things we should be doing anyway–recycling, turning off lights, not taking two hour showers, et cetera.  Some people are also interested in making sure what they are buying and eating is sustainable–and some are questioning if animal products are “green.”sustainabledairyportrait

Dairy farmers work hard to take care of their land and to be environmentally friendly. The dairy community (farmers, dairy processors, milk haulers, and more) have committed to even further reducing our carbon footprint by 2020.

Footprint

We’ve been able to reduce the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by more than 63 percent since 1944. This is due mostly to advances in animal husbandry. Farmers understand the needs of cows much better now and are able to feed cows better food and create lower-stress and more comfortable living quarters. Many farmers work with a nutritionist to make sure the cows’ diets are balance to the bite, similar to the kind of diet planning an elite human athlete would do.

Dairy cows eat feed that humans couldn’t consume–like hard field corn, or byproducts like soybean hulls, cottonseed, or distiller’s grains. In fact, 70 percent of a cow’s diet is not edible by humans.

deer in corn

The fields used to grow crops for livestock also serve as habitats for wildlife, like this herd of deer pictured above.

For more information about dairy’s sustainability efforts, check out this interactive graphic.

This Earth Day, I’ll celebrate with a glass of milk. How will you celebrate Earth Day?