In doing so, the cooperative said it is catering to the trend where sustainability and CO2 reduction are prioritized. Brugge Kaas is a locally-produced cheese with what the company said is a limited ecological footprint.
Thijs Keersebilck, managing director of consumer products & service at Milcobel, said, "The question of sustainability is high on our customers' agendas, and consumers are also thinking more than ever about what they eat and where it comes from. Moreover, many consumers are looking for ways to contribute to the climate debate. By offering a CO2-neutral cheese, conscious consumers can make a more sustainable choice within the cheese range.
"Europe is raising the bar with its 'Fit for 55' and 'Farm to Fork' programs within the Green Deal, so we want to do our bit. As a company, we consider it our duty to keep in touch with the ecological evolutions and additional requirements, but we also want to show more ambition and do our part. Through CO2 reduction and compensation, we are drastically lowering our impact."
To be able to claim the label of CO2-neutral cheese, Milcobel is working with CO2Logic. There are several requirements attached to the use of the label. First of all, all greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide) in the chain are calculated 'cradle to gate', from cow to cheese.
"More than half of our dairy farmers are already using renewable energy today, and two-thirds are implementing energy-reducing measures. In addition, we are participating in all kinds of pilot projects with the ILVO research institute on reducing methane emissions from cows and storing CO2 in grassland," Keersebilck said.
"We focus on raising awareness and stimulating sustainable projects via a sustainability premium."
Over the past five years, Milcobel said it has reduced the energy efficiency per kilogram of cheese by 23% at its production sites. The objective is to further reduce emissions from its production process by 35% by 2035. Energy-efficient processes and further efficiency improvements will contribute to this. Combined heat and power plants provide more sustainable energy.
Milcobel added approximately half of the water required is extracted from milk processing and then purified and upgraded to drinking water quality, after which it is used, for example, to clean equipment. Efforts are also being made to make packaging more sustainable.
"Over the past three years, we have used 23% less plastic for our cheese packaging. By 2023, all our cheese packaging should be 100% recyclable, and the proportion of recycled plastic packaging should increase further,” Keersebilck said.
The company said CO2-neutral production throughout the chain is virtually impossible, so the remaining CO2 emissions are compensated through a certified windmill project in India in collaboration with CO2LOGIC.
"We would have liked to support a local project, but in Europe and Belgium, carbon farming is still in its infancy. The regulatory framework is lacking, as are agreements on measuring, monitoring and compensation. Other countries are more advanced in this respect. These are, therefore, plans for the future," said CEO Nils van Dam.
"What is particularly important to us in terms of sustainability is support from our farmers and a pragmatic approach tailored to all our dairy farmers. We can already be very proud of what our dairy farmers have achieved thus far.”
The CO2-neutral Brugge cheeses will be on the shelves from February 2022.