The expansion of industrial dairy farms in Asia could lead to severe consequences for the environment, public health, animal welfare and rural economies, according to a policy paper by Brighter Green.
The policy paper, “Beyond the Pail: The Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia,” forecasts that by 2025 countries in the global south will consume 375 million metric tons of milk and dairy products, nearly twice as much as in 1997.
The shift in the Asian diet, which aside from India includes virtually no dairy, has created an emerging market of nearly 3 billion potential new dairy consumers. To meet demand, concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs or factory farms are being set up across Asia.
While factory farms are an efficient way to produce large amounts of animal products in a short time frame, they also create high levels of waste and pollution, according to the paper. Factory farms can contaminate local soil and water supplies and produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, the paper says.
Brighter Green, the organization behind the paper, wants policymakers to take notice of the consequences of dairy CAFOs and to place it higher on the international agenda as an opportunity to reduce emissions, pollution and promote sustainable agriculture.
While these negative effects are known, the impact of this trend in Asia is still largely undocumented, the paper says.
Many of these operations, which house thousands of cows, are run by global and new national dairy corporations often in partnership with governments. For instance, Danone and Nestle are active in Indonesia, where the governments wants to double the number of dairy cows by 2020. In Vietnam, a massive dairy CAFO that will have nearly 140,000 cows—making it one of the largest in the world—is expected to open in 2017.
Meanwhile, the US dairy industry has improved its sustainability, according to research published last year in the Journal of Dairy Science. Researchers analyzed the sustainability of the US dairy industry from 1944 to 2012 and found advances in genetics, nutrition and herd management have resulted in greater efficiency — more than a four-fold increase in milk yield and a reduction in farms and cows.
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