The chain of production of Valio milk differs from Central European and American production in many positive ways. The climate impact of beef and milk produced in Finland is curbed by the pastures and forests that function as carbon sinks and the fact that cows' protein feed consists of turnip rape and rapeseed rather than soy. In addition, Valio's dairy products are non-GMO, all the way up to the cows' feed.
In Finland, the feeding of cows is usually based on grass silage and domestic grains, supplemented with coarse turnip rape and colza meal, minerals and vitamins. A large part of the cow feed is composed of local food.
Elsewhere in Europe, cows are mainly fed maize silage, very commonly supplemented with coarse soy bean meal for protein. The expanding soy plantations are increasing greenhouse gas emissions by supplanting rainforests, which sequester carbon. This is why WWF has challenged businesses to start using certified soy for animal feed.
Valio has not taken part in this challenge, because its dairy chain employs hardly any soy at all. While some supplementary feeds at Valio farms may also contain trace amounts of soy, Valio's quality system requires that, in such cases, the soy must be certified and GM-free. Valio nevertheless aims to become entirely soy-free and, to this end, is presently holding discussions with feed manufacturers on how to achieve entirely soy-free feed for dairy cattle.
"Finnish meat and dairy products are ethical choices."
Meat and milk from the same cow, and the capacity of grass to sequester carbon and reduce emissions
In Finland, beef and milk are commonly obtained from the same animal. In practice, this means that the product-specific carbon footprint is smaller than in the specialised meat and milk production of Europe and America in general. The FootprintBeef study published by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) states that “one way to reduce the problems associated with global beef production is to choose Finnish meat”. This also applies to Finnish dairy products.
The methane produced in cows' digestive systems is a greenhouse gas. Because methane nevertheless cycles back to grass and forests in a short amount of time, it cannot be compared to fossil fuels. In Finland, the feed pastures of cattle farms actually slow down the decline of soil's carbon stocks (source: Luke, Virkajärvi). Grass is also suitable for Finland's climate, and its replacement with alternative food production methods would be difficult, if not impossible, in large parts of the country. Finland is a country of forests and feed pastures, which makes milk production here sustainable in terms of the climate.
Climate-wise, Finnish meat and dairy products are ethical choices. They also carry a few additional bonuses:
Farm animals are medicated only on the basis of a proven need. Valio's own cow- and batch-specific testing practice with regard to antibiotic residues in milk guarantees that the milk used in our products is free of medicinal residues. This helps to prevent the spread of resistance to antibiotics. Furthermore, we need not worry about our water footprint; in Finland, feed crops do not require irrigation and there is plenty of clean water for cows.