A producer-led coalition representing every facet of the dairy industry announced Thursday at World Dairy Expo in Madison the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative, an effort to protect consumer trust and confidence in the dairy industry's commitment to animal well-being.
The coalition introduced the first draft of proposed principles and guidelines intended to provide a uniform umbrella of assurance that the industry is meeting its ethical obligation to provide assurance to stakeholders that the dairy industry is meeting its obligation to provide appropriate care for its animals.
"This is our opportunity to do the right thing," says Deb Reinhart, owner and operator of Gold Star Farms in New Holstein, who also happens to be World Dairy Expo Woman of the Year.
"This initiative will help us as producers to control our own destiny by preserving the market access we currently enjoy," Reinhart says. "Even though we have a strong tradition of providing good care for our animals, this will validate that we are meeting our ethical obligation and the expectations of our customers and consumers."
Reinhart says she believes most producers are doing a lot of those things, "but now we need to prove it. We need to prove that we are meeting our ethical obligations."
According to Joan Behr, director of communications and employee development at Foremost Farms USA in Baraboo, the goal of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative is to provide assurance to stakeholders that the dairy industry is meeting its obligation to provide appropriate care for its animals.
"We know there is a growing disconnect between consumers and today's dairy producers," Behr says. "This initiative was developed to protect the high level of trust our industry currently has with consumers by actively demonstrating that we are doing the right thing when it comes to the well-being of our animals."
Behr stressed that today's announcement marked the beginning of the coalition's work. Throughout the next nine months, dairy producers will have an opportunity to review the draft principles and guidelines and provide input through their co-op or industry association. The coalition will incorporate industry feedback into the final principles and guidelines. Behr expects the entire process will take approximately 12 months.
The work of the initiative has been endorsed by co-ops representing approximately 57 percent of the milk marketed in the U.S. annually.
"This is our opportunity as producers to shape our destiny," adds Reinhart. "We need to drive our own bus. This is not a bus that we want to get on halfway down the block."