Nordic Dairy Congress spotlights dairy’s role in feeding a growing and ageing population

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy industry hails role in global nutrition / Pic: GettyImagesImagineGolf
Dairy industry hails role in global nutrition / Pic: GettyImagesImagineGolf

Related tags Nutrition Dairy

Dairy is in a ‘strong position’ to meet the nutritional needs of the global food market and help feed a growing and ageing global population, the Nordic Dairy Congress heard last week.

Taking into account the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, experts suggested that while the dairy industry faces challenges around climate change and its carbon footprint, the nutritional profile of dairy products and cow’s unique ability to turn grass into nutrition mean that the industry will play an important role in feeding the additional two billion people expected by 2050, NDC said.

Dairy and healthy ageing

“We need to feed more mouths, we are getting older, and far more people want to live in the cities without the opportunity to grow their own food… The dairy industry must contribute to meeting the UN goal that everyone has the right to healthy and adequate food and nutrition,”​ Judith Bryan of Dairy UK, underscored.

According to NDC, Bryan acknowledged that the dairy industry in the west might have ‘slept a bit’ in communicating the nutritional benefits of dairy products. She suggested Asia and Africa are ‘much more focused’ on the ‘vital contribution’ of dairy products to public health. In these regions, Bryan said the goal of increasing consumption isn’t questioned.

Dairy UK is working to address this and the industry body recently put together a ‘Stronger for Longer’ event showcasing research covering a range of nutrition-related topics from slowing bone loss, preserving muscle mass and strength to the benefits of the nutrient richness of dairy foods in ageing adults.

Erica Hocking, senior nutrition scientist of Dairy UK, noted that there are ‘many facets’ of dairy nutrition, which, she claimed, can make a ‘huge contribution to our health as we age’ as part of ‘sustainable food systems’.

Dairy and the Sustainable Development Goals

In the context of the UN’s SDGs, Bryan stressed the need to take a holistic view when assessing the role of dairy in the global food system. She believes there is a need to take into account issues like the contribution dairy farming makes in lifting smallholder farmers out of poverty.

Nevertheless, speakers acknowledged, the dairy sector does need to grapple with its environmental footprint and the contribution the industry makes to greenhouse gas emissions.

For Brian Lindsay, from the Dairy Sustainability Framework, the answer to both the communication gap and the sustainability drive is more data, NDC reported. “What you can’t measure, you can’t control,”​ he underscored. Data and documentation are therefore key to develop production in a sustainable direction.

“Here, the dairy industry is well positioned compared to many other food industries, because you are well organized, and there is a strong tradition of cooperation and knowledge sharing,”​ Lindsay said. He further stressed that it is important to understand the different conditions under which milk production takes place, as the majority of the world’s milk production is in fact produced by small producers with 2-3 cows, NDC noted.

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