Sustainability in the Dairy Industry

by , | Sep 28, 2021 | Food & Beverage, Sustainability

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Social Marketing Leader

Dairy processingThe dairy industry has experienced volatility over the past many years. As noted in a MSD MANUAL Veterinary Manual article, The State of the Dairy Industry:

The dairy industry is in a period of economic volatility of historic proportions. An era of modest fluctuation in milk and feed pricing in the late 1990s to the early 2000s was followed by increases in milk prices not seen before. The period of high dairy profitability in early 2008 was soon dampened as the global recession of 2008–2009 led to reduced exports. Since then, milk prices have rebounded and dropped several times. More recently, all-time high US milk prices in 2014 have been followed by 5 years of a severe, industry-wide economic downturn. In mid-2019, it was estimated that >7,000 dairies had closed because of milk prices remaining below the cost of production for too long.

I came across a question & answer document on sustainability in the dairy industry which featured Emerson’s Charlie Emerson. Here is the Q&A.

How are dairy manufacturers and brands tackling net-zero and carbon emission reductions?

The dairy process is an energy-intensive one with manufacturers typically running compressors 24/7 to power pneumatic and steam-driven equipment.

What are the challenges facing dairy in meeting net-zero, including the impact of dairy on the environment?

Dairy manufacturers face pressure across their entire value chain from the farm and the impact that cattle have on the environment all the way through the manufacturing process and into the packaging containers used.

What work is being done to reduce emissions from dairy – what are manufacturers focusing on, where are the reduction ‘big wins’, how are they engaging with the supply chain, e.g. farmers, on this?

Dairy manufacturers, as well as manufacturers in many F&B industries, are implementing technologies and systems to gain better visibility into the specifics of their energy consumption. Energy monitoring can be implemented on individual equipment, at a plant/system level, or across multiple sites.

A major energy draw from dairy manufacturers are with large air compressors that power pneumatic equipment from a plantwide network of air lines. We hear from customers that it is common for leaks to occur in air lines over time, which cause the energy usage of their compressors to increase in order to maintain the proper pressure. By monitoring and identifying these air leaks, manufacturers can reduce the requirements and energy usage of compressors.

Similarly, compressors and steam generators are energy intensive and can drive increased energy usage when steam traps fail. Manufacturers are implementing all levels of monitoring and optimization solutions depending on their maturity and needs. Emerson provides a range of technologies including steam trap monitoring and system monitoring for pneumatic systems as well as full energy monitoring and optimization packages that run at a SCADA level to multi-site monitoring and analysis tools in the form of our Plantweb Optics data management solution.

What are the opportunities for dairy brands in reducing emissions, e.g. reputation with consumers, retailers and investors?

By utilizing partners and proven solutions to help reduce their carbon footprint in manufacturing operations, dairy farmers can focus internal bandwidth and efforts on reducing the environmental impact coming from farm operations and packaging.

Charlie also noted that Emerson is working with one customer to convert agricultural biomethane into energy as another driver to more sustainable operations. Visit the Dairy Production section on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and solutions to drive more sustainable dairy operations.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.