How Ben & Jerry's Emphasizes Responsible Dairy Sourcing

Ethical food sourcing is becoming a much more widespread issue in the public eye, especially due to growing anxieties related to climate change and the mistreatment of animals caused by the food production industry as a whole (via Forbes). According to Aptean, irresponsible food sourcing can have an incredibly negative impact on the environment, with studies showing that 35% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions are rooted in the food production industry. In the dairy industry, the mistreatment of animals may include but is not limited to, removing newborn calves from their mothers as a method of cost reduction, though it places immense stress on both the mother and calf (via The Guardian).

An example of pushback on these common and unethical standards comes from The Ethical Dairy in the United Kingdom, which spent three years developing a successful dairy farming system that allowed for cow and calf housing while still being financially viable. Hershey's is another company that has recently begun its responsible dairy sourcing journey, stating on its website that it now endorses the global Dairy Sustainability Framework's criteria for sustainability and animal care and holds its suppliers to these standards as well.

The Ethical Dairy's ability to successfully prove that responsible dairy sourcing can still reap benefits, along with a multitude of other companies like Hershey's, has inspired pushback in other major organizations, including the ice cream fan favorite Ben & Jerry's.

Ben & Jerry's work towards responsible dairy sourcing

Ben & Jerry's created an initiative known as the Caring Dairy program, which is a sustainability effort to ensure the welfare of not only the dairy farmers, but the cows used to produce the company's ice cream as well. The program allows the brand to partner with local farmers, primarily in Vermont, in an effort to improve their farming practices and environment, and thus improve the brand. The program also ensures that the local farmers are financially incentivized to improve working conditions, as the brand has adopted the Milk with Dignity program as well.

This initiative also includes holding their dairy farming practices to the Global Animal Partnership standards. The GAP's standards are made up of a six-tier system that provides the consumer with knowledge of how ethically the animals were raised. The standards include an enriched environment for the animal, and as you move up the tiers, elements like outdoor access and pasture-raised are added.

Ben & Jerry's "Caring Dairy" claims have even been challenged by an environmental advocate in a failed 2020 lawsuit, according to Reuters, under the assertion that these claims were actually deceiving. 

The ice cream brand, along with many others, is helping to create a brighter future for the climate, animals, and food production as a whole with these ethical and sustainable dairy sourcing efforts.