Conventional Raw Milk

Raw, unprocessed milk is our largest purchase, totaling more than $5 billion per year.  We source this raw milk in two ways – directly from hundreds of independent farms through our Dairy Direct program, and from multiple dairy cooperatives representing thousands of dairy farmers. Together, these farmer suppliers deliver our raw milk supply from more than 10,000 farms across the U.S. to our facilities for processing.

A Safe and High-Quality Supply

As a buyer of raw milk, we focus most of our sustainable dairy sourcing efforts on setting appropriate standards and working with farmers to ensure a safe and high-quality supply of milk from animals that are cared for properly. In 2012, we voluntarily increased the testing range for antibiotics in our raw milk supply beyond federal requirements. Any load testing positive for a drug residue is rejected, and the farm in violation, as well as the appropriate state regulatory agency, is notified. Additionally, all milk we purchase from our farmer suppliers is required to meet European Union standards for somatic cell count, which are more stringent than U.S. standards.

Dairy Direct

Through our Dairy Direct program, farmers have access to competitive prices, a home for milk to take pride in, and the opportunity to establish a business relationship with an organization committed to growth and innovation. Dairy Direct allows producers to call their own shots – to make selling decisions that are best for their farms and families. Learn more at

Animal Welfare

We believe that a safe and high-quality milk supply is intertwined with the proper nutrition, care and living conditions of the cow.

As the nation's largest fluid milk processor, we are committed to animal health and welfare. Our milk supply comes from thousands of farms, both directly and through cooperatives.  We are in the process of developing industry-wide guidelines - with the world's leading experts on cow welfare - to assess farms' adherence to best practices for animal health.  

By 2018, we will require on-farm assessments of all farms delivering milk to our plants. The assessment will be performed by Dean Foods and the cooperatives, and will be based on industry-wide standardized guidelines. The frequency of each farm's assessment will be determined by greatest need for improvement, and will not extend beyond three years.  All farms will meet the standards of assessment, resolve the deficiency in an allotted time, or demonstrate adherence to a plan of action to address deficiencies.  Based on industry guidelines, Dean Foods and our dairy suppliers will undergo annual third party audits to ensure the on-farm assessments are being implemented correctly.

For more information, read about our other initiatives related to animal welfare. 

On-farm Environmental Impacts

Since 2008 the dairy industry has used life-cycle assessments (LCAs) to more accurately understand the impacts and resource requirements of our dairy products. An LCA is a tool for analyzing emissions, waste and the natural resources used throughout and affected by the life of a product. For agricultural-based food products, an LCA starts at the farm level and continues all the way to consumer homes and end-of-life for packaging. Using LCA results allows us to focus more quickly on areas where we can have the greatest impact.

The peer-reviewed LCA results also help us deliver accurate information to our retail customers and consumers. We believe that consumers should have fact-based data from which to make informed decisions.

In 2008, Dairy Management Inc. and the entire dairy industry, including Dean Foods, worked together to found the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The Innovation Center is leading the work in developing LCAs that will be used to guide the dairy industry for many years to come. Additionally, we are working together to create a comprehensive industry-wide approach to benchmarking, tracking and reporting to improve efficiencies from farm to consumer in the supply chain. Read more about our partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy on our Partnerships page.




With the completed spin-off of our WhiteWave business and the sale of our Morningstar business in 2013, all sustainability metrics, going back to 2007, have been recalculated to reflect the current structure of Dean Foods.

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