The Otago Daily Times is reporting that the dairy industry will be releasing details from a case study under the Government’s greenhouse gas “footprinting strategy” next Friday. Fonterra, the worlds largest milk company, has been increasingly concerned about its carbon foot print as consumers, particularly in the UK, have started to consider the ‘food miles’ of what they buy in the supermarket. In 2007 British media targeted Fonterra over the long distances traveled by its products; food exported from New Zealand to Britain travels quite literally half way round the world. Fonterra has always claimed however that as food miles don’t take into account other carbon costs such as the use of heated indoor milking sheds (common among northern hemisphere dairy farmers) and the emissions from the production of concentrated feed used in the UK, their product is more environmentally friendly that its British equivalent.
According to Professor Caroline Saunders, director of Lincoln University’s agribusiness and economics research unit, 2007 research showed the UK produced 34 percent more greenhouse gases per kilogram of milksolid, and 30 percent more per hectare of dairy farm. Alison Watson, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisherie’s coordinator for the carbon footprinting strategy told NZPA global supermarket chains such as Tesco and Wal-Mart are key drivers of carbon footprinting, which some supermarkets such as Tescos in Britain, or Carrefours in France, or Migros in Switzerland wanted carbon footprint information, and others, such as Marks and Spencer wanted evidence that suppliers were working on reducing their emissions. Despite the low carbon footprint, New Zealand’s dairy industry isn’t completely clean and green, having previously come under criticism for pollution of waterways, with 75 percent of waterways in the Waikato region, a major area for dairy farming, being unsafe even for livestock to drink from.