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Is Ireland Proud of Its Dairy Farming Heritage? Research Shows 7 Out of 10 of Us Are

NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards Hegarty Family Farm, Killavarrig, Whites Cross, Co. Cork. Picture Clare Keogh © Clare Keogh NDC Ornua
  • 79% believe Ireland’s 18,000 family dairy farms are thinking about the environment
  • Three-quarters still believe that Irish, grass-fed dairy is amongst the best in the world

New research[1] by the National Dairy Council – conducted as part of the ‘From The Ground Up’ awareness campaign – has found that, when they thought about it, 68% of people agreed that they were proud of our country’s dairy heritage. Irish dairy farmers – backed by 4,000 years of history – feed 45 million people each year in 130 countries around the world. Right now, however, their future is uncertain and it’s reassuring to know that there is a groundswell of public support.

The uncertainty stems from Ireland’s first emissions targets (‘carbon budgets’) – due to be published shortly – and what it may take to achieve them. Despite widespread measures already being taken to reduce dairy’s greenhouse gas emissions – which are demonstrating results – farmers are being accused of ‘talking the talk’ rather than ‘walking the walk’. Thus it’s also reassuring that – after consideration – 79% of people recognise that our dairy farmers are thinking about the environment.

The 2015 Paris Climate Accord (which 191 countries signed) warns against acting on climate change in a manner that threatens food production. Irish dairy farms are, of course, producers of nutritious and high-quality food and the research shows almost 75% of people still believe that Irish dairy is amongst the best in the world. Nearly 80% recognise that dairy contains essential nutrients, around three-quarters see dairy as part of healthy, balanced diet, and more than half think it essential to consume dairy daily.

Zoë Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the National Dairy Council, welcomed the findings of the research, but believes that the job’s not done until everyone recognises the nutritional, social and economic contribution that dairy makes to Ireland Inc, and the dynamic behind it.

“There are 18,000 family-run, pasture-based dairy farms in Ireland, which are at the heart of an industry sustaining 60,000 jobs (1 in 40 Irish jobs) and contributing €5bn to the economy each year.

“Dairy is part of our country’s heritage – and when people realise that, it becomes a source of pride – but we also need to view this from a global perspective.

“It’s all about the three Bs – Buoyant, Better, Best. Like it or not, demand for dairy products continues to be buoyant, and Ireland – from an environmental (GHG emissions) point of view – produces dairy better than any other European country. The best way to address global climate change is for buoyant demand to supplied by a country that’s better at producing dairy.”

Miriam Gunn, dairy farmer and NDC spokesperson, said “Very often it feels as if farming – and dairy farming in particular – is completely misunderstood and under-valued.

“We are the driving force behind quality food products that people want to purchase and are a key part of a healthy, modern lifestyle. Demand for dairy just keeps increasing – and yet, as an industry, what we’re doing in the area of sustainability simply isn’t recognised.

“This research shows that, when people spare a bit of time to think about dairy farming, they do recognise that we’re thinking environmentally and they are proud of Irish dairy as a part of our heritage. It is massively important – not just to us as farmers, but to the country as a whole.”

[1] Dairy Sentiment Research, conducted September 2021, sample size 1003 adults

For futher information contact:
Cathy Currran, Communications Manager, National Dairy Council
+353 1 290 2518 | pr@ndc.ie

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