Plenary session: vegetables versus dairy

What are the opportunities and threats for dairy as an element in our everyday diets? This key question has been addressed by Professor Hans Mommaas, Director General of the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency. He elaborated on the changing European sector and how cows are being kept nowadays.

Resource-smart food system

On the one hand, dairy plays an important role in human nutrition, especially during childhood (SDG2), and dairy production provides many people with their livelihoods (SDG1). On the other hand, dairy animal feed has a large footprint, dairy production leads to greenhouse gas emissions (SDG13) and it impacts terrestrial biodiversity (SDG15).

Mommaas’ answer is a resource-smart food system. “We need to reward farms properly. Dairy needs to be referred to as a food as opposed to just a commodity and a nutrient. To something that connects us humans to our natural habitat. There is so much more to be communicated about dairy than nutrition, because it is part of livelihoods and sustaining landscapes.”

Reaction Rolf Bos

Rolf Bos, Nutrition and Health Theme Director at TiFN (public-private partnership for research on food and nutrition), replied to Mommaas’ contribution. He pointed out that dairy is not a commodity, but a very widely available, and affordable, nutritious product. In addition, “we should be careful with our products, and not destroy them as that is very damaging for the sector.”

Reactions from the audience:

  • Diana Valencia: “Would we really want an increase in milk consumption at the  expense of vegetables? Nutrition, i.e. a balanced diet, must be prioritised.”
  • Christopher James UK: “I am a dairy farmer, I am adaptable. I can become a vegetable farmer.”
  • Vera Mozgovaya: “Industry should show the benefit of dairy for consumer. Consumers are sometimes not informed.”

vegetable diet reacties