DENMARK – Arla Foods has launched an updated version of its its farm management and quality programme, Arlagården, to enable its farmers deliver more transparency and stronger climate actions by better reflecting on-farm results and delivering the higher levels of data.

Arla Foods launched the Arlagården programme in 2003 to ensure quality of its dairy products. According to the dairy cooperative, the revised programme will now give consumers and customers even more insight to meet their expectations and build trust.

With the revised programme, Arla said that its audit methods and reporting will be fully aligned for all 9,700 farmers owners across seven European countries.

Going forward, the cooperative noted that the revised farm management and quality programme will shift its focus from how farmer owners improve performance on their farms to the results they deliver, further accelerating the cooperatives’ transition to a more sustainable dairy production.

One of the major changes to Arlagården is that Arla farmers will have to self-assess their farms on a quarterly basis. Arla said that this will create the highest level of data submitted yet, helping farmer owners identify opportunities within their own data and through the shared database.

“The self-assessments will serve as a kind reminder to us farmers to confirm on an ongoing basis that we keep our cows in good health and maintain a high milk quality,” Arla Foods chairman, Jan Toft Nørgaard explains.

“At the same time, we as farmers can utilize the database as a source of inspiration for on farm benchmarking and improvements. It will also allow the cooperative to quickly spot if there is a need for further audits and support to help a farmer meet our shared standards.”

On top of the self-assessment on farms, the dairy processor noted that there will be three different types of on-farm audits, all conducted by SGS, a leading Swiss inspection, verification, testing and certification company.

These will include basic audits, which will take place on farms at least every three years; attention audits, which will be arranged if the basic audit or the data submitted from the self-assessment indicates irregularities; and randomly selected spot check audits, which will take place with 48 hours’ notice to the farmer.

“Since Arlagården was introduced 17 years ago, it has been one of our core strengths and main competitive advantages. But we can’t stand still. We know that consumer expectations for sustainable high quality food production continue to grow, and governments across Europe are looking to the industry to drive positive change.

“As the Institute for European Environmental Policy report commissioned by Arla demonstrated, partnerships and real solutions that work for farmers, the wider industry and consumers are essential to delivering that sustainable future.

“This strengthened management programme is an important part of that solution to deliver our shared ambition for sustainable dairy production,” adds Jan Toft Nørgaard.

Since early 2019, Arla revealed that members across the cooperative have been deeply involved in defining both the new standards and the new audit system. The processor has hence made some improvements to the programme.

Among them, Arla Foods has updated standards to reflect customers’ current requirements regarding milk quality, food safety and animal welfare, as well as to increase their focus on sustainability.

The programme also reflects a strengthened audit set-up and digital reporting, provides more flexibility for farmers by focus on the results rather than the exact solutions and providing more transparency.

Arla had initially planned to conduct a pilot test of the new audit setup in April and May, but due to the global corona virus pandemic, this has been delayed. Arla now plans fully implement the new Arlagården programme and audit system by 1st of August.

As one of the global leaders in sustainable dairy production, Arla Foods claims that its farmer owners are already among the most climate friendly dairy farmers in the world, producing milk with less than half the average of emission per litre compared to global dairy production.

The cooperative has also set an ambitious goal to reduce carbon emission by 30 per cent by 2030 and produce carbon net zero dairy by 2050.