The dairy industry impacts some of the world’s most sensitive environmental areas covering a wide range of ecosystems. As milk is not usually shipped internationally and is instead distributed and consumed in its country of origin, the impact of dairy in a given place is primarily a local issue. Dairy farms are often family-owned and seen as essential for rural employment.
Despite its local focus, dairy is indeed a large, global industry—there are approximately 250 million dairy cows in the world. Production systems and practices vary widely across countries. With demand for dairy rising as the world’s population grows, it is essential to improve the sustainability of dairy production globally.
The dairy industry poses a number of challenges to the health of the environment. Methane emitted from cows’ digestions process—called enteric fermentation—and their manure is the most critical potential impact of dairy production. Water pollution is another major concern, as manure and nutrients run into waterways. The dairy industry is also responsible for land conversion, particularly in the tropics, to grow the feed required by dairy herds
WWF envisions a global marketplace in which all dairy is sustainable. By working to engage companies in supporting sustainable production, bringing together stakeholders to discuss pertinent issues, and developing sustainable measurement and reporting guidelines for the industry, WWF Is helping to make dairy a healthy choice for you and the planet.