Sustainability In Food Production
What is Sustainable Food Production?
On a Verified Premium Plus dairy the term Sustainability includes:
- The dairy is socially responsible
- The practices are environmentally sound
- The dairy is economically viable, earns premiums for quality
- Food produced (milk & dairy beef) is produced responsibly (transparency) and is traceable from the dairy farm to the processor to the retailer
- The dairy is verified by the Dairy Quality Center approved licensed veterinarian annually
What guides "meeting" the food industry's commitment to Sustainability?
The Dairy Quality Center's Verified Premium Plus Program aligns with:
- Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (Strategic Platform)
- Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy (Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy)
- Key Performance Indicators (KPI's)
Nearly all estimates of world population indicate that today's young dairy farmer will need to feed twice as many people by the time he or she retires (9 billion).
Verified Premium Plus (VPP) producers believe this increased food production can be accomplished in a manner that uses fewer resources than used today.
This is a VPP producer's definition of environmental sustainability. Included in this bold statement is the desire to improve the environment (water, soil, and habitat). This dream of environmental sustainability includes improving human health and access to safe nutritious food. The VPP dairy leader also wants to improve the social and economic well being of his/her community.
The annual audits of his/her dairy develop the metrics to measure outcomes of his/her practices. These metrics allow tracking, trends, and faster dialog between the farmer and the consumer. The VPP Brand protects the producer.
The starting point in this brand enhances the focus on nitrogen and phosphorus - two critical elements in the quest for quality.
VPP Brand herds' nutrition is regularly tested by pulling milk samples and developing MUN scores. MUN (Milk Urea Nitrogen) serves as a monitoring tool for assessing protein nutritional status (dry matter intake, water intake, milk production, protein, and energy requirements). The dairy nutritionist/veterinarian can use the MUN plan rations for the animals (do not over feed nitrogen).
Typical MUN scores are 10 - 14 mg/dl. The milk cow excretes the extra nitrogen in the urine. This can become a water quality problem for the dairy. VPP auditor encourages the farmer to make nutritional changes to protect the environment and to minimize feed costs while maximizing production of milk and meat.
VPP Brand producers are encouraged to optimize feeding and improve phosphorous balance on the farm. Nutritionists and producers are careful not to over feed phosphorous - one of the most difficult elements to remove from the soil. International standards have been set for phosphorus in the feed - and Verified Premium Plus herds are careful to stay under the limits.
The results protect the environment, maximizing production, and saving resources, all part of sustainable agriculture - food production.