Peter de Jong (Ed)
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. £130.00
The subject of dairy production – from feed production for cows, through to milk production and the processing of milk into a range of products and delivery to consumers – is complex. Peter de Jong, together with a group of mainly Dutch and Australian authors, sets out to examine the sustainability of this chain of processes.
Unfortunately there is no clear definition of the phrase 'sustainable production' at the outset against which to judge the subsequent discussion. Two thirds of the discussion is devoted to post-farm gate stages, such as processing and packaging, whereas it is made clear at the outset that the major part of the environmental impact of dairy production is at the pre and on farm stages.
There is also a mass of data outlining the contribution that the industry makes to greenhouse gas emissions. The need for water and energy for crop production to feed cows, for processing and for distribution is also discussed.
Much emphasis is rightly placed on the need for the industry to be profitable to survive, but the authors seem to imply that this should be achieved even by recourse to public subsidy, which is highly debatable.
There is a particularly useful chapter on life cycle assessment applied to the dairy industry. Each chapter has a conclusion and a list of references, and there is a comprehensive index.
Having read the book, I still found myself wondering about the meaning and veracity of the following sentence, at the start of the final conclusion: "The dairy industry is an intrinsically sustainable food sector delivering a great deal of nutrients relative to its impact on climate."