Competition for land: cows don’t belong on cropland
Cows grazing where nothing else grows is not a problem. If, however, cow feed is produced on arable land that could be used for food crops, this can result in so-called food-feed competition for the land. When this aspect is taken into account in the environmental assessment of dairy products, grassland-based milk production is shown to offer crucial advantages. With the support of Emmi, its main shareholder, the Central Switzerland Milk Association (ZMP) and the national association of Swiss milk producers (SMP), WWF has launched a project aimed at making this aspect measurable.
One of WWF Switzerland’s, Emmi’s, ZMP’s and SMP’s joint aims is the establishment of environmentally friendly milk production – an achievable aim since cows can provide us humans with valuable services. They can transform the energy stored in grass into a foodstuff of great value to us. From an environmental point of view, though, it makes little sense to use arable land to grow feed for cows when it could be used to produce food for human consumption.
Flawed environmental assessments
Environmental assessments have been in use for several years to facilitate environmentally sound decision making. The different analysis methods, such as product life cycle assessments, can produce widely varying results and are continually being developed in an effort to eliminate known deficits.
WWF, Emmi, ZMP and SMP consider the failure to take account of food-feed competition in the production of agricultural raw materials to be such a deficit. Reducing this competition is indispensable if we want to optimise our utilisation of resources and minimise the environmental impact of producing animal-derived foodstuffs.
Measure before you manage
In partnership with Emmi, WWF Switzerland commissioned the development of a suitable indicator for measuring food-feed competition in the dairy cattle industry. Agroscope and the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) develop an indicator system and test it on 24 dairy farms.
The “area and food competition in milk production” project runs from January to December 2018 and is financially supported by Emmi, the Swiss milk producers (SMP), the Central Switzerland Milk Producers (ZMP) and WWF Switzerland.
The results are published and made available to the dairy industry.