Sustainable concept for Swiss production

Over the past two years, Swiss dairy group Elsa-Mifroma has collaborated with dairy producers, scientific institutions and animal welfare, environmental protection and consumer organisations to develop a new concept for Swiss milk production.

The guidelines for future milk production were scientifically evaluated and their implementation was tested in a pilot project with 37 companies.

As of spring 2018, all Elsa direct suppliers as well as selected third party suppliers will implement the new concept. Elsa is the fifth largest dairy group in Switzerland.

“We are only part of the value chain, so it is important that we take this initiative together with the producers,” says Lukas Barth, head of agricultural policy and dairy farming at Elsa.

With the new concept, milk producers are committed to sustainability in three areas: in favour of society, the environment and economic efficiency. The guidelines were developed together with and evaluated by the University of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL).

The system consists of basic requirements, which all producers have to fulfill and voluntary modules with which additional points can be collected.

It promotes, among other things, location and species appropriate feeding, welfare and health of animals and it should strengthen the biodiversity and underline the long term partnership between the milk producer and the processor.

Every calf also receives a name after birth as one of the basic requirements. This is a tradition in Switzerland and is a sign of appreciation for the animals, according to Elsa.

Agroscope, the federal competence centre for agricultural research, has examined how the defined requirements affect society, the environment and economic efficiency. The study has shown that the effect is overwhelmingly positive. However, the impact assessment was not always clear, partly because certain topics have not yet been scientifically studied.

The concept takes into account the location requirements and special features of the individual companies and allows each producer to set individual priorities in implementation.

“We rely on partnership and the personal responsibility of all actors in the value chain – anything else would not be sustainable,” says Barth.

The concept also aims to help producers to run their business economically efficiently, with the goal of long-term success.

“With our commitment to sustainable, high-quality products we are jointly strengthening our position on the market and ensuring that we can continue to pay our producers a higher-than-average milk price despite market pressure,” claims Barth.

The implementation of the concept is only the first step. Elsa helps producers to further develop the commitment to sustainability and builds up corresponding offers together with external partners.

According to Elsa, the new standards are paving the way for Swiss milk production and processing to have a future. It includes:

  • Cows that can move freely in the playpen or outdoors
  • Feed that has been produced on the spot and is good for cows’ digestion
  • Calves who are treated with respect
  • Dairy producers who can be successful in the long term thanks to efficiently managed farms
  • Preserving varied animal and plant species and their habitats.

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