As a leading dairy provider, Dean Foods is committed to providing a quality product that meets or exceeds the expectations of our customers and consumers. Our commitment is shown in every step we take, from the farm to the fridge, and it begins with the health and welfare of the cow. Although we do not own the farms from which we procure raw milk, we have a responsibility to ensure that our farmer suppliers provide for the good welfare of their cows.
|View the Dean Foods Statement on Animal Welfare|
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.
In 2010, we created a professional position to champion the Dean Foods approach to animal welfare and dairy stewardship. We hired Dr. Jennifer Walker, DVM, Ph.D., an expert in bovine health and on-farm management practices, to serve as the Director of Dairy Stewardship. In her role, Dr. Walker is helping Dean Foods create industry-leading best practices in animal welfare, milk quality and farm resource management. The Dairy Stewardship team partners directly with dairy farmers who supply our raw milk to enhance our quality assurance and sustainability processes, as well as to develop a standard of excellence that will provide a consistent and thorough assessment of our dairy suppliers.
Animal Welfare Advisory Council
In 2011, Dean Foods brought together an industry-leading Animal Welfare Advisory Council, a diverse team of experts who are now working together to develop a national program that will demonstrate farmers’ efforts to do the best for their cows while identify areas that need improvement. The Animal Welfare Advisory Council boasts of contributions from farmers, customers and the world’s leading experts in animal welfare including Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Marina von Keyserlingk, Dr. Cassandra Tucker, Dr. Nigel Cook, Dr. Carolyn Stull and Dr. Jan Shearer.
In developing programs and guidelines for our farmer suppliers, the Council understands that enforcing a few critical guidelines and requiring that farmers make efforts to improve will be essential to a meaningful welfare program. It also recognizes that good welfare is a balance between three components: physical, behavioral and emotional health.
The Dean Foods Approach
The primary goal of the Dean Foods approach to Dairy Stewardship is to promote good welfare of dairy cattle. Our program goals will include verifying that cows are cared for properly and that farmers are working to meet contemporary standards. A successful on-farm program will identify areas that need attention or improvement as well as document that plans are created and implemented to correct any areas where a farm is challenged. We also recognize that there is no single approach to providing for the welfare of cows. Given the tremendous diversity in dairy farming, our farmer suppliers must maintain the independence to determine what management practices work best for them in promoting good welfare. We also know we cannot prevent every instance of malicious behavior. But we can provide the knowledge and tools necessary for farmers to make the right decisions, hire the right people and effectively train them.
The welfare of dairy cows covers a broad spectrum of concerns rooted in society’s views of the role animals play in our lives. Consumers have become increasingly conscious of animal welfare issues, and they expect that dairy cows and other animals involved in production agriculture are provided for in a way that respects their nature and strives to ensure good welfare. Today’s consumer is typically far removed from the farm, so educating them on animal welfare and agriculture is a first step in meeting their expectations. Clearly, consumers expect that abuse or neglect of animals is neither condoned nor permitted. But beyond that obvious expectation, we build and maintain consumer trust by demonstrating that we share a common ethic about animal welfare.