89% of consumers are confident that dairy farmers can make the changes necessary to achieve climate action targets, according to a new survey.

The findings of the survey of 1,500 Irish adults, published today (Monday, September 4), also show that three quarters of consumers believe the dairy industry should be supported to ensure it is viable for future generations.

The research was carried out in March by the European Milk Forum (EMF) as part of their ‘Dairy in a Healthy and Sustainable European Food System’ campaign.

The three-year EU-funded campaign aims to gain a better understanding of the public’s perceptions of the challenges posed by climate change to the dairy sector.

Consumer research was also carried out in Northern Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and France.

Dairy farmers

Up to 75% of survey respondents said they are sufficiently informed about the work of dairy farmers and their role as food producers as part of a sustainable food system.

A similar number said the dairy sector is “critically important” economically, socially and culturally in Ireland, while 66% believe dairy farmers can help consumers adopt a more sustainable approach.

48% of consumers were aware of the challenge posed by rising farm input costs when it comes to the sustainability efforts made by farmers.

44% were concerned about dairy farmers balancing environmental demands and remaining economically viable.

Over 70% of the survey respondents said they waste as little food as possible, with a similar amount recycling food and packaging.

breeding season

Zoe Kavanagh, spokesperson for the European Milk Forum in Ireland and chief executive of the National Dairy Council (NDC), said the research shows consumers’ continued support for Ireland’s 17,500 dairy farmers.

“While concerns have been expressed about the need to implement technological innovations and achieve quick results, the findings also demonstrate that overall, Irish consumers have confidence in dairy farmers to make a real difference and are aware of the work underway so far.

“We know that Irish farmers are determined to play their part and are stepping up to the plate with environmental initiatives implemented on dairy farms across Ireland, further enhancing the sustainability of our pasture-based production system,” she said.

“We do need to acknowledge the balancing act between remaining economically viable and ensuring our family run dairy farms are supported to further enhance their milk production process.

“It is important not to lose sight of the fact that dairy farming supports 60,000 jobs and contributes €5 billion to the Irish economy,” Kavanagh added.

“Dairy farmers can take heart from the finding that a strong majority of consumers believe that dairy is vital to rural communities and regional economies. Year-on-year, research increasingly reflects this with figures increasing from 69% in 2022 to now 76% in 2023.

“Further to this, we know consumers place a significant value on dairy, with 54% believing it is part of a healthy diet and over 90% including milk, cheese and yogurt in their diet on a weekly basis,” she said.