Dairy-free alternatives booming in an industry seeking carbon neutrality
I scream, you scream, we all scream for…vegan ice cream? Long considered a dairy staple, ice cream has had a facelift in recent years, with an abundance of new dairy-free alternatives hitting the shelves.
A welcome respite for those with dairy intolerances, ice cream makers have discovered that everything from oats to almond milk can be used to whip up the summertime freezer staple.
People like it too.
England major Kyle Figueroa, a sophomore at Stanford – and who describes himself as non-vegan – tested the taste of vegan ice cream for an opinion piece published in the Stanford Daily.
“To begin with, I was shocked,” Figueroa wrote, after tasting Eclipse brand’s “Cookie Butter” vegan ice cream. “It tasted like traditional ice cream, like real cow’s milk was used. The texture was good, and it was creamy, smooth, and rich.
The budding ice cream critic went on to describe how the vegan ice cream left a “strange, artificial feeling that lingered in my mouth” but, overall, concluded it was a “tasty treat. “.
“Overall, I would recommend this ice cream to anyone looking to try plant-based alternatives,” Figueroa wrote.
What started as a way to make ice cream more accessible to people with dietary restrictions has grown into something even more impactful: saving the planet.
With climate change becoming an increasingly urgent threat, companies have started to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
Ice cream industry titan Ben & Jerry’s is one such brand looking to change the way it produces what many would consider one of the world’s most beloved desserts.
Reducing its carbon footprint has become one of Ben & Jerry’s top priorities, and the company is taking a number of steps to ensure it limits its impact on the environment.
“We love ice cream. We love it, eat it and make it more for over four decades. But we also know that dairy can have a big effect on the environment and the climate – which is why we’ve worked hard for years to reduce the impact of the flavors we love on the planet we love,” writes the company on its website.
Cows housed at Ben & Jerry’s Dairy Farms, for example, will start being fed small amounts of red algae later this year to help their digestion.
The algae supplement will actually reduce the emissions released when dairy cows burp – which is responsible for a higher amount of the dairy industry’s carbon footprint than you might think – by over 80%.
Ben & Jerry’s is making the food change as part of a pilot program involving 15 of its farms that it calls “Project Mootopia.”
The pilot program aims to halve emissions from Ben & Jerry’s dairy farms. The new concept is being tested on farms in Vermont and the Netherlands, near the company’s European ice cream plant.
“We’re really working collaboratively with the farms to try and see what works because we don’t know what’s going to stick or what will make financial sense,” said Jenna Evans, global sustainability manager for Ben & Jerry’s, at Fast Company.
In addition to algae, Ben & Jerry’s is also introducing new technologies to its dairy farmers, such as methane digesters which are used to process methane and create fertilizer.
The methane digesters are also capable of generating electricity that the company can resell to Vermont to help power the state’s power grid.
Ben & Jerry’s is not just trying to lead the way in climate-friendly ice cream, but rather setting a trend and setting a model for other brands to follow.
“We want to be really transparent in this project so that other brands can learn as we learn; and so we will advance the most successful and feasible practices,” Evans told Fast Company.
Beyond ice cream, the dairy industry as a whole has ambitious targets to tackle climate change, with an industry-wide commitment to be fully carbon neutral by 2050.
Being able to achieve this goal would certainly make a difference, as dairy consumption in the United States accounts for about 2% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Dairy farmers will be at the forefront of the push towards carbon neutrality and will have to adapt accordingly to follow more environmentally friendly methods.
What seems like small things can also make a big difference. The way crops are planted, for example, can have a significant effect on the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when seeds are planted.
“Healthy soil can absorb and retain much more carbon dioxide than if it is overworked by agriculture,” Rachel Cohen of Boise State Public Radio says in an audio report released by NPR.
Keeping the soil healthy can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as using a no-till seeder which is gentler when pressing seeds into the ground.
Another method to have healthier crops – and reduce your carbon footprint in the process – is to plant a cover crop on the fields during the winter, which protects the soil by preventing both wind and water erosion. .
Farmers who are able to show they are reducing their impact on the climate by keeping more carbon in the soil than in the air could also start selling so-called ‘carbon credits’ to other industries. .
As Cohen puts it, farmers could “essentially get paid to offset carbon dioxide pollution by maintaining healthy soils that absorb more gas.”
While carbon markets currently don’t pay for the ability to hold carbon in the ground, the Biden administration has said it wants to expand carbon markets for farmers in its new climate-smart products program. a billion dollars.
So whether it’s vegan ice cream coming out of the dairy industry or the industry itself, it’s clear that changes are being made to help keep the earth at a temperature where we won’t all melt.