Over the last 15 years, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of raw milk in Belgium have fallen more than 26%. More than 1 in 4 Belgian dairy farmers generate their own sustainable energy. And the dairy industry has reduced its energy consumption per ton of finished product by 13% in 10 years. These are just some of the remarkable conclusions from the first sustainability monitoring by the Belgian dairy sector.
In recent years, the Belgian dairy sector has made a huge effort in the area of sustainability. The entire sector has taken initiatives, from milk production to milk collection and milk processing. In order to follow up the results of all these efforts, the dairy sector launched its own sustainability monitoring service. In the period from 2014 to 2016, 8020 Belgian dairy farmers were audited on their sustainability initiatives. And because the sector wants to continue its effort to achieve further sustainability, a second round of monitoring is already underway.
Dairy farmers can choose from 35 sustainability initiatives, grouped into seven themes: animal health, animal welfare, energy, environment, animal feed, water & soil and social & economic sustainability. In 2016, 92% of dairy businesses used at least one of the sustainability initiatives, compared to 81% in 2014. The average number of initiatives per business also rose, from 9 in 2014 to 11 in 2016. Progress was made in each of the seven areas of sustainability. For example, more than one in four dairy farmers (27%) produce sustainable energy, with solar panels leading the way. Manure is also used regularly as a new source of energy.
In the area of milk collection there are also some interesting results. For instance, by optimising routes, launching awareness campaigns around fuel-efficient driving, and using eco-friendlier engines, fuel consumption per litre of collected milk has fallen by 9% over 10 years.
Milk processing focused primarily on initiatives related to energy consumption, emissions, water consumption and waste management. In practice, for example, dairy processors reuse residual heat, recycle water condensation, convert waste water into processing water and reduce raw material and food losses further along the chain. The result is that since 2005 the dairy industry has been able to reduce energy consumption per ton of finished product by 13%.