Feed Bites

The Sustainable Side of Summer's Favorite Treat

Written by: Lacie Dotterweich   |   June 19, 2020

Dairy, Co-products, Ingredients

I think most people would agree that ice cream is a delicious treat year-round, but there is just something about eating an ice cream cone on a hot, summer day that makes it so much better. With this weekend marking the official start of summer and June being National Dairy Month, now is an excellent time to walk through the journey that ice cream takes from crop to cone.

It all starts with farmers, dairy cows and nutritionists. Dairy farmers work with animal nutritionists to develop balanced diets for cows. More than 50% of a dairy cow’s diet is often forages, which includes hay, corn silage and grass, mixed with grain, protein sources, vitamins and minerals. Protein is often included from oilseed meals such as soy, cotton or canola. Cows can also be fed food and fiber co-products that would otherwise go to landfills, including cottonseed hulls, almond hulls and citrus pulp.

When cows are fed safe, nutritious and balanced diets, they are able to make milk and cream for us to enjoy, which is made into ice cream. To make 1 gallon of ice cream, it takes 3 gallons of milk. A cow typically makes enough milk to make 2 gallons of ice cream per day, totaling 730 gallons per year, which breaks down to roughly 9% of all milk produced in the U.S. being used to make ice cream. That’s a lot of ice cream! It all gets scooped up by the 87% of Americans who admit to having ice cream in their freezer at any given time (I know I currently have two quarts in my freezer).

While ice cream production’s journey ends in our freezers, the co-products leftover from making ice cream go on to serve other purposes. For example, the leftover products, which have a high sugar content, can be useful in feeding young livestock, fulfilling their dietary requirements.

Producing milk itself has come a long way in sustainability. Thanks to modern and innovative dairy farming practices, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk today involves 30% less water, 21% less land, 21% less manure and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007 (U.S. Dairy).

Many people are looking for ways to be more sustainable in their lives. The good news is that eating ice cream all summer-long is one of them!

For more, watch this fun, short video from DMI on what dairy cows eat:

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