Consumer demand for more environmentally friendly produce has led retailers and processors to seek more sustainable supply chains.
Fast food restaurant Burger King has launched an advertising campaign in the US about lowering its carbon footprint by feeding lemongrass to cows, and other retailers and restaurants were also looking at the supply chain to boost their environmental credentials.
And processors were looking to clean up their own environmental records as well as encouraging suppliers to do the same.
In the dairy sector, Dairy UK’s latest benchmarking survey showed processors making ‘positive progress’ on their environmental goals.
Its members reported a 20 per cent increase in primary energy efficiency, a 17 per cent decrease in energy-related carbon per kilo of milk and a 20 per cent increase in water efficiency.
Ninety-four per cent of their ex-factory waste was recycled or recovered, with a 23 per cent average recycled content by weight across all packaging.
Muller said as a ‘consumer-centric business’ it was working to ensure business growth was realised through ‘responsible and environmentally sustainable practices’.
A Muller spokesperson said: “We have already reduced our carbon footprint by 30 per cent since 2015 and we are aiming to get to 40 per cent by 2025 and net zero by 2050.
“To achieve this, across our network of dairies and depots in the UK we will continue to use green energy and introduce more renewable energy generation, reduction benchmarking and efficient logistics practices.
“We will also work closely with our supplying farmers to create carbon reduction plans, ensuring the entire supply chain is taking action.” Graham Wilkinson, agriculture director at Arla, said consumers were becoming more aware of where their food came from so its customers were looking to work with suppliers to be more sustainable.
He said: “Across our 9,700 European farmers, we already produce milk to half the emissions of the global average per litre compared to global dairy production, but we know we can do more.” Arla was aiming to be carbon net zero by 2050 and had introduced initiatives including on-farm climate checks.
Farmers get an overall environmental score and identify areas where emissions can be reduced by looking at everything from herd size, feed, housing, energy and fuel to milk volumes.
Mr Wilkinson said with retailers also under increasing pressure to meet consumer demand, the Arla 360 programme enabled them to trial new technologies and innovations.
He said: “Working closely alongside Morrisons and Aldi, we are experimenting with leading sustainability techniques and world class animal welfare programmes.” This included a ‘Project Pollinator trial’ supporting wildlife and biodiversity.
He said: “Working with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, we have access to science which will help farmers make better decisions for managing land, such as where to plant flower-rich pollinator habitats and creating woodland.” First Milk said it was ahead of schedule on its target to reduce its emissions by 65 per cent by 2025.
The co-operative’s First4Milk programme included working closely with our members to help them better understand factors contributing to on-farm carbon emissions and the level of soil carbon on their farms and how this can be enhanced.
It also highlighted how grass-based dairy can act as a carbon store which presented an opportunity for dairy farms to change land management practices and potentially offset emissions.
It was also exploring how it could become an ‘aggregator’ for carbon trading, where farms can be paid for the ‘public good’ of carbon sequestration.
In the meat industry, an ABP spokesperson said its carbon reduction strategy spanned the supply chain from farmgate to end consumer.
The spokesperson said: “At farm level, the company’s Blade Farming initiative has paved the way in combining science and good animal husbandry in helping rear cattle more efficiently and sustainably.” The processor has now developed research and development farms in the UK and Ireland, focusing on how genetics can impact emissions.
It said it had applied its findings in a collaboration with Dale Farm dairy in Northern Ireland, which provided a market for selectively bred dairy calves and also reduced emissions through an earlier age of slaughter.
All ABP processing sites were powered by green electricity with a circular economy at ABP Ellesmere which has seen carbon output reduce by 7,000 tonnes a year.
The spokesperson added: “All ABP’s sustainability strategy is driven by doing what is right for the environment and operating as sustainably as we possibly can.”
Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) could provide a solution for agricultural businesses looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels as the industry looks to move to 100 per cent bioLPG by 2040.
Emissions Liquid Gas UK chief executive George Webb believed the industry highlighted LPG produces 33 per cent less carbon emissions than coal and 15-20 per cent less carbon emissions than oil.
He added with the industry looking to move to the bioLPG, farmers replacing machinery and crop-growing infrastructure could convert now and would not need to convert again.
Compound feed manufacturer ABN was looking to make better use of organic waste materials as it looked to meet net zero targets.
It was diverting all waste to an anaerobic digestion plant owned by its sister company Amur which produces two-thirds of the gas to power its feed mills.
Unique Amur said the agriculture industry was in a unique position to be able to make good use of much of its waste and there were opportunities to create a circular economy for businesses.
With a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2040, there is still a long way to go.
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