Resource Management Implications of a Large-scale Organic Dairy in the U.S.: A Life-Cycle Perspective
Aurora Organic Dairy (AOD) is the largest provider of private-label organic milk and butter in the U.S. managing over 12000 milking cows and processing over 84 million liters (22 million gallons) of milk annually. Milk from six AOD farms (three in Colorado and three in Texas) is processed in a state-of-the-art processing facility in Colorado and then distributed to retail outlets across the country. Recent growth and a commitment to sustainability and the organic industry have led AOD to evaluate its life cycle GHG emissions and explore reduction strategies. In this study we benchmark the life-cycle carbon footprint of AOD operations and explore the implications of a vertically integrated large-scale organic dairy on resource management logistics such as transportation. Data collected at AOD farms and processing facilities were used to build a LCA model for benchmarking the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption across the entire milk production system from organic feed production to transport of packaged milk. Overall GHG emissions were 1.7 kg CO2 eq. per liter of packaged liquid milk. While the major GHG contributors include enteric fermentation (28% of total) and feed production (23% of total) transport (of feed raw milk and final product) over large distances account for 20% of the GHG emissions.