Milk products fit in a sustainable diet

15 October 2018

Providing the growing world population with more sustainable and healthy food is a big challenge for the future.

Sustainable and healthy foodMilk products fit in a sustainable diet 6

Every day we aim to provide the world’s population with the healthiest nutrients. To ensure sufficient food supplies for future generations, we’ll have to move towards a more sustainable diet. In doing so, it’s important not to look solely at the impact on the environment, but to find a balance between environmental impact, health, acceptance in culture, affordability, quality and safety of food. Milk products score well on many of these aspects. Therefore, dairy makes an important contribution to securing food and nutritional security.

Milk products fit in a sustainable diet 7Environment

Eating and drinking accounts for 20 to 30 percent of our environmental impact through the use of energy, water and soil. Food production will become more sustainable through efficient use of water and land, the reduction of food waste and greenhouse gas emissions and the stimulation of biodiversity.

Greenhouse gasMilk products fit in a sustainable diet 10

An average Dutch household (2.2 people) has an average annual COemission, as shown in the image. This can be divided into 4 product groups.

Milk products fit in a sustainable diet 2Food choices

It seems that a diet with less meat is the best step towards a more sustainable diet. Drinking fewer soft drinks, fruit juice and alcohol also contributes to environmental benefits. A diet that resembles the current Dutch pattern results in a reduction of environmental impact by 21 to 30% (depending on your gender and age). In order to make your diet more sustainable, the consumption of milk (products) and fish can remain approximately the same. In short, dairy products fit perfectly into a sustainable diet.

General tips for a sustainable and healthy diet:

  • Consume nutrient-rich food that has been minimally processed
  • Eat fewer products that fall outside the national dietary guidelines
  • Waste as little as possible
  • Skip meat, especially red meat
  • Maintain level of dairy consumption 

Milk products fit in a sustainable diet 3Did you know …

… that each product group offers different nutrients that the body needs every day? It’s important to realize that simply replacing a product group isn’t that easy. To put it into perspective: the healthiest dietary patterns often have high greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a diet with low environmental pressures is not necessarily the healthiest choice.


HealthMilk products fit in a sustainable diet 9
Our milk products play an important role, as they are a natural source of protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12. This makes dairy extremely suitable for a sustainable diet.

Dutch milk is among the most sustainable in the world. The average CO2 emissions of a Dutch dairy cow is 1.2 kilo per liter milk. Compared to figures worldwide where this amount is twice as high: 2.4 kilos of CO2. However, the Dutch dairy sector continues to invest in sustainability. In the coming years we will focus even more on sustainable milk with extra attention for nature, climate with low CO2 emissions, animal welfare and biodiversity.

Growing world populationMilk products fit in a sustainable diet 5

The demand for food increases due to the growing world population. It is expected that nearly ten billion people will populate this earth by 2050. To be able to feed them, food production has to increase by 70 percent compared to levels in 2009. The World Food Organization and the World Wildlife Fund recognize in the Rotterdam Dairy Declaration that dairy can play a major role. In addition to food security, dairy products make an important contribution to poverty alleviation and the development opportunities of family businesses, small farmers and shepherds inside and outside of the Netherlands.