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It doesn’t take much to evoke an image of Alpine idyll: a cow, grazing away happily amid an expanse of juicy, green grass, a multitude of herbs and Alpine flowers at the foot of a mountain. What really interests us, though, is how close the reality of dairy farming in Switzerland currently is to that blissful image. A 2017 survey in spring 2017 gave us an initial idea.

We know that Swiss dairy farmers are exemplary by global standards. 81 % percent of the Alpine republic’s dairy cattle are already regularly let out into open pasture*, while 40 % are kept in particularly animal-friendly loose boxes**. An average Swiss dairy cow’s feed is 78 % roughage, which meets the European grass-fed cow’s milk standard.

However, we are less interested in averages than we are in making sure that by 2020, all milk used in Swiss Emmi products meets high sustainability standards. To do so, we need to know the situation of each supplier and what they need to improve to become exemplary in every way. Not an easy task given that we process milk from some 6,000 farms in our Swiss production facilities. In the spring, we conducted a first, voluntary survey among the dairy farmers that supply us directly (i.e. not via a dairy farming cooperative) about how they keep their cattle.

Above-average standard of animal welfare

Of the 1,900 milk suppliers we contacted, nearly 600 completed our voluntary survey. Of these, 89 % bear an additional, state-backed animal welfare label, which is very encouraging, and 92 % give their cattle roughage-based feed (containing >80 % roughage). Remarkably, 90 % of the latter are businesses that supply us with conventional milk, i.e. milk that is not specifically labelled as organic or Demeter milk, or as coming from grass-fed cows.

The results of this first survey indicate that many of our milk suppliers are already in a great position in sustainability terms. This provides us with an excellent basis on which to work towards processing nothing but sustainable Swiss milk by 2020.

89 % animal welfare label

  • 83 % RAUS (regular access to open pasture)
  • 53 % BTS (particularly animal-friendly loose box stables)
  • 11 % no animal welfare label

Requirements for animal welfare standards particularly animal-friendly loose box stables (BTS) and regular access to open pasture (RAUS) (in German): http://milch-umwelt.swissmilk.ch/issue/tierwohl/#explore

* according to animal welfare standard RAUS (summer: 26 days/month, winter: 13 days/month)
* *according to animal welfare standard BTS

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The figures confirm my gut feeling: animal welfare standards are very high at Swiss dairy cattle businesses.

Reto Hübscher, Head of Milk Procurement
Reto Hübscher,

Head of Milk Procurement

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