Protein types

Dairy

Enteric fermentation from cattle is the largest driver of emissions from livestock at 39% of all emissions associated with the sector. The dairy sector is exposed to deforestation or conversion risks due to both cattle ranching and the purchasing of soy as cattle feed. Antibiotics use to treat mastitis in dairy cows has been linked to antimicrobial resistance in faecal bacteria in dairy cows in the US, which can ultimately transfer to humans.

Key stats

70
%
Over 70% of companies that produce or sell dairy products (or both) have not set targets to reduce non-mechanical emissions, which make up 75-99% of dairy emissions

The Index includes seven companies that produce and sell dairy products, including six that are pure-play dairy-producing companies. The estimated revenue linked to dairy production and sales alone is approximately $45 billion (14% of the total 2018 revenues for all 60 Index companies). The seven companies have a market capitalisation of $70 billion (22% of the total).

Results

  • 5/6 dairy companies are not addressing deforestation risks linked to soy used as feed.
  • Most (86%) dairy companies are not adequately addressing or managing water scarcity risks in animal farming.
  • Only one dairy company has a comprehensive manure management plan.
  • Most (86%) dairy companies do not have commitments on avoiding close confinement. Only 28% discuss providing environmental enrichments such as comfortable bedding.
  • Most dairy companies provide regular safety training to workers and are transparent on injuries and fatalities. However only a minority have worker safety certifications to international standards.

Number of dairy companies ranked as high, medium or low risk by factor

Average score across dairy companies by factor

Risk factor materiality

 

Risk factor

 

Description
GHG emissions Enteric fermentation produces methane (CH4) through the decomposition and fermentation of plant materials by microbes in the digestive tract of ruminants. Enteric fermentation from cattle is the largest driver of emissions from livestock at 39% of all emissions associated with the sector. The FAO estimates that while dairy farming has become more efficient, emissions increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015.

 

Deforestation and biodiversity loss In certain regions, such as South America, the dairy industry is directly linked to the conversion of primary land to ranches. The dairy industry is also linked to deforestation through the purchasing of soy as cattle feed.

 

Water scarcity

 

Water is one of the most important resources on a dairy farm. It is critical for drinking, washing, cleaning and feed processing. Livestock drinking accounts for a third of blue water consumption in farms.

 

Waste and pollution

 

A farm with 4,000 dairy cows produces around 37.5 million gallons of manure and wastewater per year. Nitrate pollution in groundwater sources caused by dairy farms is an increasing risk in dairy-producing regions. This has led to lawsuits and community protests.

 

Antibiotics A common treatment for mastitis in dairy cows (inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue due to bacterial infection) is to administer antibiotics preventatively during the ‘dry’ period in between lactations. This has been linked to antimicrobial resistance in faecal bacteria in dairy cows in the US, which can ultimately transfer to humans.

 

Labour conditions Dairy farming is associated with higher rates of work-related injuries compared to other industrial sectors. Fatalities tend to be associated with heavy equipment use. Injuries and fatalities associated with manure-handling systems and livestock handling occur on modern farms.