Great ice cream and so much more: how we source our milk and dairy
Since the early days Ben & Jerry’s has been about more than tasty ice cream filled with chunks and swirls. We work in close collaboration with our suppliers and customers, all the way from cow to cone. For example, for ingredients such as cocoa and vanilla, we have long worked with Fairtrade farmers and cooperatives. The fudgy brownies that we use in our ice cream come from Greyston Bakery, where producing scrumptious baked goods is part of their mission to provide people with a second chance.
Dairy is the basis for many of our fans’ favorite concoctions. When you know that around half a pint of our dairy-based flavors is made up of cream and milk, it comes as no surprise that we are proud of the relationship with the 400 family farms that are part of our European Caring Dairy program.
What is the Caring Dairy program?
The Caring Dairy program was established in 2004 and is now the one of the longest-running progressive dairy programs in the world. In Europe, it was initiated by Ben & Jerry’s and CONO Cheesemakers, a 100-year-old farmer’s cooperative that is known for its dedication and ongoing commitment to producing milk in the most sustainable way.
Free grazing & much more
For over 16 years we have worked with European family farms that let their cows graze outside, where- as cows are grazing animals, they can engage in their most natural behavior.
But our dairy program is about more than that; topics farmers work on, range from promoting healthy soils to increasing the feed crops on the fields, stimulating the presence of birds and insects, to sequestration of carbon in the soil. The idea is: the more progress the farmers makes, the higher the reward they receive. Do you want to know more about the areas we work on in our program? Read on right here!
Why do we do this?
Our dairy program stems from the core values of the Ben & Jerry’s business, which include Environmental Protection, Restoration & Regeneration, and is part of the company’s vision to support thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, excellent care for cows, and a flourishing ecosystem that combats climate change through building soil health and sequestering carbon. Read more about the full strategy in our SEAR report.
Our European cows are outside for at least 120 days a year and 6 hours per day. We say at least, because in practice, Caring Dairy cows are outside for 180 days on average.
The Caring Dairy program is in place since 2004. The reason for us to start this program is core to our mission to make great ice cream in the best possible way. The goal of our dairy program is to support thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, excellent care for cows, and a flourishing ecosystem that combats climate change through building soil health and sequestering carbon. It is rooted in the idea that real change happens bottom-up, by empowering farmers to act. It also is rooted in the believe that collaboration between farmers are essential to making progress. The program aims to support farmers as much as possible to connect, share and learn with peers, and at the same time bringing in expertise and tools in key sustainability areas.
The European dairy program contains 11 indicators ranging from soil health to CO2 reduction to stimulation of biodiversity and wildlife. Read more about the indicators here.
Yes, one of the unique features of our program is that the more progress the farmer makes, the higher reward they will receive. There are three standards that they can achieve each year: gold, silver and bronze. Each farm performance is ranked using the 11 sustainability criteria ranging from soil health to biodiversity impact. Read more about the criteria here.
But the program tries to do more than that: it aims to empower farmers to make changes using tools and expertise, and by allowing them to connect to other likeminded caring dairy farmers. This way we try to encourage farmers to lean and grow collectively in a way that is driven from the bottom up.
Yes, Ben & Jerry’s is committed to reducing its absolute GHG footprint. Ben & Jerry’s has committed to de-coupling the growth of our business with the growth of our GHG emissions. We’ve made an external commitment to an 80% reduction in our absolute emissions by 2050, despite an ambitious plan to grow our business. Between now and 2020, we’ve committed to reduce the emissions intensity per unit of production by 15%.
Our carbon footprint per pint is about 1kg or approximately 136,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses annually. View our Life Cycle Analysis here.
More than half of our company’s carbon emissions come from the production of our ingredients, most notably, milk. On farm emission are 42% of the overall life cycle emissions of our company, so in order to make real progress to reduce our footprint, we’ve got to partner with our family dairy farmers to improve manure management, reduce enteric emissions from the herd, and move towards better cropping methods that promote soil health and sequester carbon. In addition, we’ll continue to drive efficiencies throughout our manufacturing plants, our logistics network and our frozen supply chain. Four years ago Ben & Jerry’s has committed to a self-imposed fee of $10 US dollars per metric ton of carbon that we produce as a company and then use that money to work with farmers and develop and implement carbon reducing strategies.
Read more about the Environmental Protection, Restoration & Regeneration values that underpin our work in our SEAR report