vendredi 22 avril 2016




 From the moment we are old enough to be aware of advertisements, we’re bombarded with messages about how dairy is an essential part to a healthy diet. Want to grow up and have strong bones? Better drink your milk! Want to be like your favorite celebrities and athletes? Again, the answer is milk.
More than any other food we consume, dairy is associated with calcium. As the be-all and end-all of calcium, cow’s milk has become a veritable superstar in the “healthful food” world. While it could be argued that the beginning of the marketing of dairy for its calcium content began after World War I, conveniently amidst a dairy surplus, the dairy industry has spawned into one of the most lobbied for industries in the U.S. In 2013, the dairy industry spent over $8 million on lobbying, and has already spent over $3.5 million on lobbying in 2014. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. federal government collects “industry fees” for dairy checkoff programs. Essentially, the government collects these fees from the producers of agricultural commodities to promote and “research” that particular commodity. As lobbying interests rally the government to put these dollars towards promoting dairy, the cycle perpetuates itself.
Regardless of the questionable ethics of shamelessly marketing dairy to a population that is already in the midst of an obesity epidemic (cheese is the single largest source of saturated fat in the American diet), the promotion of milk has had other consequences. As corporations find more ways to slip more dairy into their products (Between 2009 and 2011, Dominos entered a $35 million partnership through a checkoff plan that lead them to put MORE cheese on their pizzas – others in the industry followed suit) they are rewarded with financial gains and encouraged to drive up the market for dairy.
At current rates, U.S. dairy farms produce 196 billion pounds of milk a year. In 2013, the U.S. dairy industry produced 11.1 billion pounds of cheese (excluding cottage cheese), 1.86 billion pounds of butter, and 1,052 million pounds of regular fat ice cream.
Where there’s and overabundant supply of dairy, there’s demand, right? … oh wait. While it is clear that the proliferation of the dairy is great for the U.S. economy, it turns out that it is not so great for the planet.

Dairy and Water Use

Global water footprint of animal agriculture is 2,422 billion cubic meters of water (one-forth of the total global water footprint), 19 percent of which is related to dairy cattle.  This might seem like a huge amount of water, but considering that in the U.S. alone there are currently nine million dairy cows in the United States and that in a dairy operation, water is required to hydrate cows, clean parlor floors, walls, and milking equipment, water use adds up fast.

Water for Cleaning Dairy Facilities

A dairy facility that uses an automatic “flushing” system for manure can use up to 150 gallons of water per cow, per day. A medium size dairy factory farm facility houses between 200 and 700 cows (the EPA considers 700 dairy cattle the lower limit for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Using the maximum figure, this would mean that a medium sized dairy factory farm would use 104,850 gallons of water every day – just for flushing purposes.

Water for Hydrating Dairy Cows

Milk is about 87 percent water, so a cow that is constantly producing milk needs to sufficiently hydrated. A cow can drink 23 gallons of water a day, so given a facility with 700 cows, 16,100 gallons of water would be used everyday for the cow’s drinking water.

Water for Feed

A study published by Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen Hoekstra found that 98 percent of milk’s footprint can be traced back to a cows food. Dairy cows eat a LOT. Constantly producing milk is a huge drain on a dairy cows metabolism, and they need to replenish that energy through their food. According to the findings of Dan Putnam, a plant scientist at the University of California-Davis, it takes around six pounds of alfalfa to produce one gallon of milk. It takes 683 gallons of water to produce just six pounds of alfalfa. A dairy cow can produce up to seven gallons of milk a DAY, meaning that 4,781 gallons of water are used per cow everyday for their food needs.
When you add up the water used for food, water, and cleaning the facility the average dairy cow uses 4,954 gallons of water per day. When you multiply that to account for the 700 cows on a dairy factory farm that is 3.4 million gallons of water EVERY DAY. Accounting for the nine million dairy cows there are in the U.S. that number is astronomical.
Around 21 percent of U.S. dairy comes from California. While this might not seem like a big deal, when you consider the extent of the current drought that is happening in California and how much water the dairy industry uses, that 21 percent is pretty significant.

Carbon Emissions and Dairy

According to the FAO’s report, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions From the Dairy Sector: a Life Cycle Assessment,” estimates that the global dairy sector contributes four percent of total global anthropogenic GHG emissions. This figure includes emissions allotted to milk production, processing and transportation, and the emissions from fattening and slaughtering dairy cows.