US Dairy Export CouncilThe U.S. dairy community takes pride in the way its rich heritage of land stewardship and long-term commitment to sustainable dairy farming strengthens its economic, environmental and social contributions.

The dairy cow plays a key role in an environmentally-responsible, sustainable U.S. food system that serves the needs of current and future generations.

Environmental Stewardship: A commitment to continuous improvement

  • Milk production has quadrupled, but a gallon of milk today uses (1944 vs. 2007): US Family Owned Dairy Farms
    • 90% less cropland
    • 76% less manure
    • 65% less water
  • The U.S. dairy industry accounts for approximately 2% of the total U.S. GHG
  • The U.S. dairy community has reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 63% over the past 60 years, and has set a voluntary goal to reduce GHG emissions by 25% by
  • The U.S. dairy industry uses anaerobic digester systems to convert manure and commercial food waste into electricity, fuel for cars and trucks, and fertilizer and fiber.
  • The number of operating anaerobic digester systems in the U.S. reached a total of 280 on-farm systems with 77% located on dairy
  • Applying manure back to the land maintains soil fertility and reduces the need for synthetic
  • By returning nutrients from their feed back to the land, U.S. dairy cows create an efficient nutrient cycle. This recycling of nutrients helps make producing crops more
  • On dairy farms, water is typically safely re-used as many as five or six times. For example, water used to clean milking parlors is safely recycled and re-used to clean production areas and then to irrigate
  • The world’s largest single-country milk producer, U.S. milk production reached more than 97 million Metric Tons (triple that of New Zealand and Australia combined) in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • To maintain a healthy and clean environment, many dairy farmers voluntarily participate in research efforts to help measure and monitor air quality more accurately.

Social Responsibility: A commitment to future generations

  • In 2015, 9.2 million dairy cows on 43,583 licensed dairy farms produced 91.4 billion litres of milk.
  • The U.S. dairy community impacted 73,000 U.S. schools enrolled in the Fuel Up to Play 60 partnership with the National Football League to help 14 million students eating healthier and 18 million students being more active according to educators. Milk and dairy foods supply 50% of the calcium and 15% of the protein in the average American diet.
  • Demonstrating their commitment to raising and caring for animals in a humane and ethical manner, U.S. dairy farmers voluntarily participate in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care Program. US Sustainable Dairy Farm
  • With over 98% of the U.S. milk supply represented, FARM is the first livestock animal care program in the world to be recognized by the International Organization for Standardization (IS0) Animal Welfare Management standards.
  • U.S. dairy farmers work closely with animal nutritionists and veterinarians to make sure their cows have the nutritious feed they need.
  • U.S. dairy farms keep their cows comfortable in many ways, including using fans and water misters to keep cows cool during the summer.
  • From 2014 to 2016, the Great American Milk Drive, a charitable organization led by U.S. milk companies and dairy farmers, delivered 3.8 million litres of milk (and its nine essential nutrients) to families.

Economic Profitability: A commitment to long-term viability

  • The U.S. dairy industry supports roughly 3 million jobs and generates $625 billion for the American economy every year according to the International Dairy Foods Association in 2017.
  • U.S. dairy products are affordable and readily available.
  • Milk is the lowest-cost food source of dietary
  • Adequate dairy consumption as part of the healthy eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is associated with lower risk of certain costly chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Dairy farms and businesses support rural economies in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto
  • Cow’s manure helps restore nutrients in the soil and each day, 1 cow produces 64 litres of manure which is enough fertilizer to grow 20 kilograms of corn.
  • 80% of what dairy cows consume can’t be eaten by people, including byproducts of other foods like citrus pulp and almond hulls. 


2016 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report, The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
U.S. Dairy’s Environmental Footprint, The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
How One Cow Contributes to a Sustainable Food System, The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
Honor the Harvest, 2018 Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and National Dairy Council
U.S. EPA AgStar Livestock Anaerobic Digester Database, accessed August 2018

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Another Sustainable Practice in Brief:

In the U.S., carbon sequestration during forest growth of the tree more than offsets the total carbon emissions resulting from harvesting, processing and transport combined.