Chobani launches “Milk Matters” program to overhaul dairy industry

Katherine Durrell

A holistic program to support the economic, environmental and social impacts of milk is being launched by American Greek yogurt company Chobani. The Milk Matters program is a collaboration with Fair Trade USA, as well as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), National Milk Producers Federation, Cornell University, state programs and community foundations in Idaho and New York.



The program is intended to take a comprehensive approach to increasing transparency in an effort to address the challenges today’s dairy industry faces. Although there have been some well-intended industry programs and certifications, many of them only address single isolated issues and do not provide relief for struggling farms, the company says. Milk Matters will provide meaningful support throughout the dairy community to preserve long-term viability for the industry.

Chobani is the second largest US yogurt manufacturer.“Dairy farms are the backbone of the communities we call home, but the current model is broken and it’s leaving consumers questioning everything, including the treatment of animals, farm workers and the land itself. Our solution is simple but powerful. We all have a responsibility to support the farmers who make our business and our vision possible,” says Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani.

Chobani has outlined six “critical pillars” as a focus for Milk Matters.

  • Worker wellbeing: Chobani and Fair Trade USA are working to create a first-of-its-kind certification standard for US dairy to strengthen safety, training programs, wage standards and a support hotline.
  • Environmental stewardship: A collaboration with the WWF and National Milk Producers Federation’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) will help reduce Chobani’s carbon footprint by measuring greenhouse gas emission and energy use on dairy farms.
  • Animal care
    : All the cooperative dairy farms currently sourced from by CHOBANI participate in the FARM Animal Care program. By the end of the year, all the farms Chobani sources from through the company’s cooperative partners will be part of National Milk’s FARM Version 3.0., the industry’s highest standard for animal care.
  • Local sourcing: Chobani is part of the New York State Grown & Certified and Idaho Preferred programs in order to support agricultural communities and minimize its carbon footprint.
  • Investing in dairy communities: Chobani has partnered with the Community Foundation for South Central New York and the Idaho Community Foundation to invest US$2 million in grants to fund local community organizations, expand economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship over the next decade.
  • Freedom and Flexibility for dairy farms: Chobani stands against the banning of GMO feed in order to avoid placing an undue financial burden on farms. Farms with less than 300 cows will be helped in receiving funding by a partnership with the Cornell PRO-DAIRY program and New York State’s Dairy Acceleration Program. This will go to business planning and improved profitability strategies through on-farm production techniques and aspects related to the day-to-day farm operation.

Milk Matters has been developed over several years, with Chobani listening to farmers, farm workers, elected officials and experts across the dairy industry in order to forge a comprehensive path forward.

Green agriculture blooms
With the environmental impacts of the dairy industry under increasing levels of scrutiny, Milk Matters comes at an ideal time. It is expected that there will be 10 billion people to feed by 2050, meaning that it is vital that the food system changes drastically. Sustainable agriculture is more important than ever.

“Working with over 900 dairy farmers, Chobani can help the dairy industry reduce its environmental impacts. WWF will work with Chobani and its supplying cooperatives to identify and promote better management practices that use natural resources more sustainably. Chobani has further committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using science-based targets in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement,” says Sandra Vijn, Dairy Director at WWF.

Other dairy players are also stepping up their environmental credentials, as seen with the “On the way to PlanetProof” label. It is used for a wide range of agricultural products and certification is carried out by the independent Dutch certification agency (SMK). The recently introduced label stands for an integrated, multi-faceted approach with a focus on the dairy farm. The aim is to make primary production more sustainable and try to avoid adverse yield effects of the organic approach. This label has been used by FrieslandCampina for the past few months.

Furthermore, Danone announced a new alliance last week with seven other agricultural sector players, including DSM, to help dairy farmers adopt more sustainable regenerative farming practices.

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