Reducing carbon footprint in the dairy industry – Part 3: Dairy Processing

carbon footprint farming

In this third and final part of our 3 part series on reducing carbon footprint in the dairy industry, our attention turns to dairy processing.

Research for this series has led to many fascinating discoveries in what the dairy processing industry is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. Some initiatives are quite obvious, like applying energy-efficient equipment, sourcing cleaner energy, and self-sufficient energy supply. But other methods are not so obvious, but show just how determined and creative the dairy processing industry is in cutting GHGs. 

There are 4 main ways dairy processors are reducing their carbon footprint.

  1. Direct GHG attack 
  2. Indirect GHG attack
  3. Supporting suppliers to operate greener
  4. Bioscience – working at an ingredient level to reduce production energy burden. 

Direct GHG attack

Investing in new technology has huge GHG savings. Dairy processors are looking at every motor, heater, and pump to ensure they run on less power and are more efficient.

Processors are looking at every part of the assembly line to ensure it is as energy efficient as possible.  

Dairy processors are realising significant energy savings by ensuring the most modern motors and pumps are used. It takes thousands of motors and pumps; motors for running a conveyor belt, motors in articulated robotic appendages, and pumps to keep suction in the lines so the milk moves to the different parts of the assembly. Processors are continuously educating themselves on the best technology available to do these tasks and investing heavily to implement these more efficient systems.  

They are also sourcing cleaner energy from suppliers, ensuring energy they buy comes from wind, solar or wave power instead of fossil fuel facilities. Where possible, dairy processors are installing their own sources of natural energy like wind and solar power to supply their facilities with the energy needed.

Indirect GHG attack

To ensure they are processing milk in the most sustainable way they don’t just turn to themselves. They are adapting a more responsible role in their entire supply chain. The industry calls this sustainability accountability from farm to fork. They ensure that any 3rd party providing them with supplies of any type, do so in a sustainable manner, from sourcing the material, manufacturing and transport. 

Take for example packaging, ensuring packaging is not only more biodegradable or recyclable but that the material used is sourced and manufactured sustainably too.

Many processors are capable of providing full supply chain sustainability reports, and others are on a journey to be fully accountable in their supply chain. 

Supporting Suppliers to operate greener

Dairy processors are fully aware of the volume of GHG produced by farms in order to provide them with the raw milk they need. Processors take a serious approach when it comes to supporting their farmers. When researching, we found so many variable support programs for farmers that it would be impossible to name them all. We picked some that we feel would have the biggest impact for farm sustainability.

  • Technology Processors are providing farms with more sustainable refrigerated milk holding tanks. The cooler tanks are in use  24/7 365 days a year. They are constantly cooling and turning the milk, and by modernising this, they are greatly helping in energy use reduction. 

  • Education programsProcessors often have farm education teams whose responsibility is to support the education of farmers on sustainability. From part one of this series, you will see the importance education plays in farm sustainability. To see dairy processors taking education so seriously is very encouraging for the industry.

  • Sustainability awards – Some processors run farm sustainability programs and will send sustainability experts out to examine farms. Documenting the farms sustainability program from a starting point and measuring the farms journey over a set period of time. Reaching certain markers will often result in a monetary reward for the farm, provided directly by the processor. 

Providing technology, education and reward programs that farms can be a part of and engage with are three big ways dairy processors are investing back into the environment and ensuring responsibility for not just their own processing, but the raw ingredients they use also.


Dairy processors have some of the most sophisticated science laboratories of any industry and the best scientists working in the food industry. By understanding the raw ingredients, these scientists have developed more sustainable ways to work with milk. Understanding milk at a molecular/biochemistry level, scientists have advanced and improved every part of the processing line, from more controlled temperatures in pasteurising to better management of bacteria in the processing streams. Continuous improvements are resulting in greater efficiency and sustainability. 

Throughout the series, we have discussed how different areas of the dairy industry can reduce their carbon footprint. If you want to find out how OptaHaul can help you reduce your carbon footprint using route optimisation contact us today. 

Missed the other articles on reducing carbon footprint in the dairy industry series? You can read ‘Part 1: Farming’ and ‘Part 2: Milk Transportation’ here