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Dairy consumption increased during Covid-19 lockdown

A new study also revealed Irish attitudes to climate change and sustainability.

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New research carried out by the European Milk Forum in collaboration with the National Dairy Council (NDC) has revealed a change in habits during Ireland's lockdown. 

The study found that almost 40 per cent of Irish consumers under 35 had increased their dairy consumption (of milk, cheese and yoghurt) since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in March. Over 90 per cent of respondents said that dairy is a part of a sustainable diet and 88 per cent believe that Irish dairy is superior to dairy produced elsewhere.

The study of 2,000 Irish adults was carried out as part of the European Milk Forum’s Sustainable Dairy in Europe campaign. The aim of the campaign is to gain a better understanding of consumers’ though on sustainability and climate change and, in particular, the challenges they pose to the dairy sector.

The research found that climate change remains a big concern for people. Almost every respondent (96 per cent) agreed that climate change is already occurring or will occur in the near future and 70 per cent said they are worried about it. However, when it comes to our purchasing decisions carbon footprint (10 per cent) and sustainable packaging  (19 per cent) are less of a priority than price (43 per cent), nutritional value (34 per cent) and healthiness (31 per cent).

Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the National Dairy Council and spokesperson for the European Milk Forum in Ireland, said, “The survey tells us that an overwhelming majority believe in climate change, believe that we can prevent all or the most serious consequences of climate change, and that the responsibility to create this more sustainable future needs a collaborative effort between the production industry, consumers and politicians. But with only two in of five consumers feeling well-informed about sustainability, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done by stakeholders right across Government, civil society and industry.”

According to the NDC Ireland has the most efficient production system in the European Union with low levels of carbon emissions, thanks to the country’s grass-based and family farming systems. Almost every farmer in the country is certified under the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme in Ireland (Origin Green) for taking steps towards improving sustainability. "Looking to the future," Kavanagh says, "recognising the carbon capture potential of our grasslands and hedgerows, and differentiating between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide are key issues that could provide significant climate and industry benefits."