UK – German multinational dairy company Müller is targeting a 30% reduction in emissions from supplying farms by 2030 as part of effort to achieve its sustainability goals. 

The new target for more than 500 Müller Direct farmers is part of the dairy company’s Müller Advantage program from 2022, which aims to help farmers operate while also addressing issues for consumers and customers. 

 Müller said it has identified three changes to help farmers reduce their environmental footprint: encouraging the replacement or reduction of soya feed in cattle diets, using more natural fertilizer, and increased use of genetics management.  

To encourage participation from farmers, Muller says it will provide all farmers in the program with an opportunity to earn a payment of 1 penny per liter (equivalent to £20,000/$26,420 for a 2m liter per annum producer).  

Jon Jenkins, chief executive officer at Müller Milk & Ingredients said, “We know that shoppers are thinking much more carefully about the choices they make, how and where it was made, the health benefits, the value it represents and how it is packaged.  

With 96% of adults in Britain buying milk, the end-to-end process, from farm to fridge, impacts a lot of lives, and we recognize our responsibility to do the right thing throughout the supply chain.” 

Europe’s biggest carbon emitters 

Meanwhile, new research from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has revealed that emissions of Europe’s 20 biggest meat and dairy corporations outstrip countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. 

The IATP said its emissions estimates are based on the latest available livestock production data at the time of calculation: Dairy figures are for 2017, beef and pork for 2018 and poultry for 2019. 

The report that is being launched ahead of the European Commission Communication on “sustainable carbon cycles” noted that despite their significant carbon footprint only three companies have committed to reducing their overall emissions from livestock  

According to the report, the  20 biggest meat and dairy companies produce almost one-third (131%) more greenhouse gas emissions than the Netherlands, the sixth-largest economy in Europe, and almost five times as much as Denmark (492%).  

It added the combined emissions of the 20 biggest companies equal nearly all of Italian oil giant Eni’s emissions, and are equivalent to 60% of the emissions of the French fossil fuel corporation, Total.  

The report also said seven out of 10 companies tracked over time saw their climate footprint grow between 2016 and 2018.  

Shefali Sharma, European director at the IATP, said, “The climate footprint of Europe’s big meat and dairy companies rival the fossil fuel giants, yet they continue to operate with impunity.  

The handful of companies that have climate plans rely on accounting tricks, greenwash and dubious offsets to distract from the fundamental changes needed to cut emissions, while offloading many of the costs and risks onto farmers in their supply chains.”  

The IATP said analysis of the climate targets and plans of the 20 biggest companies revealed six key approaches — none involve a shift to agroecological farming or the production of less and better meat and dairy which offer the greatest potential to cut emissions.  

It said companies such as Danone and Arla plan to offset their emissions through practices that impermanently lock carbon in the soil.  

It added many companies, including Nestlé, Danish Crown and Vion, plan to offset part of their emissions by converting animal manure into biogas.  

The report said many companies claim to reduce emissions through “regenerative farming practices,” which purport to create healthier soils.  

It said companies invest relatively little in these practices and offload the bulk of the cost and risk onto farmers.  

The report further highlighted the minimal funding that these companies are pumping into their sustainability efforts. 

According to the report, Danone’s funding for regenerative agriculture amounts to one day of its annual sales turnover, while Nestlé’s was equivalent to 1.8% of its 2018 sales revenue. 

It goes on to state only four companies report emissions from their entire supply chain even though livestock production accounts for 90% of their emissions.  

With the report portraying a grim picture of sustainability in the dairy and meat industry, Sharma now calls for the European Commission to stop financing industrial agriculture. 

She further called for the commission to support the transition to sustainable agroecological farming practices based on less and better meat.  

“It should also put rules in place to regenerate rural economies and provide decent work in the food sector,” she added.  

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