The Dutch dairy chain, which is driven by more than 18,000 dairy farmers, is currently facing a significant challenge: it has to bring about sustainable development while simultaneously enhancing and expanding its position in an increasingly competitive global market. If they are to successfully take on this challenge, it is essential that all parties in the milk and dairy chains join forces and cooperate.
While the Dutch dairy chain is highly productive and efficient, production still needs to be increased and new approaches need to be considered.
Wageningen University & Research can use its knowledge to create innovative solutions but cannot afford to lose sight of the importance of social dialogue in doing so. This is because innovation often leads to resistance, distrust and a fear of the unknown. This resistance to innovation can only be overcome by reaching out to society.
Milk is more than a simple food commodity product: it is a nutritious source for a number of interesting, healthy and useful products. Modern technology even allows dairy to be consumed by people with lactose intolerance. We are already able to better meet the needs and demands of the consumer. And this is the challenge that we need to take on more effectively: from asking to listening, from offer to need.
The quality of dairy products is dependent on a number of factors including the genetics of the cow, the quality of the animal feed, best animal care and an appropriate environment in which the cows are kept.
In the Netherlands this is common knowledge, as livestock farmers, suppliers, cooperatives, dairy processors and leading research and educational institutes work together throughout the entire chain. This typically Dutch ‘from grass to glass’ approach optimises the dairy chain in the Netherlands. And the genomic revolution offers new opportunities to improve this even further.
This is why it is important that all parties involved in the future of dairy farming – which forms the basis for future dairy production – join forces now.
To this end, we have founded the Dairy Campus: a national innovation centre of global standing (field trip on Friday 21 October). At this centre we provide education on all levels that is focused on innovation and a process of lifelong learning. Here we conduct groundbreaking research into fundamental questions and perform practically oriented experiments. We develop valuable knowledge through innovations that will take the world by storm and which will translate into tangible results for Dutch and international dairy chains. However, the most important factor remains the consumer who needs to be able to count on healthy , honest dairy products.
Let us work together to create socially acceptable sustainable dairy chains across the world. For this, we need to address the social dialogue around dairy chains. Dare to discuss dairy.
She combines a long academic career as professor in Wageningen and Amsterdam, with various visiting professorships, with an extensive involvement in policy and development.