The majority of Irish consumers believe that climate change is already happening or will occur in the near future; although more information is needed.

This is according to new research – released today, November 20, by the National Dairy Council (NDC) – which was conducted as part of ‘Sustainable Dairy in Europe’ – a three-year campaign by the European Milk Forum and funded by the EU.

The aim of the study was to gain a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of sustainability, climate change and the challenges they pose in relation to the dairy sector.

Over 2000 consumers in Ireland were involved in the research as well as consumers in Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.

The study found that, most (71%), say they are worried about the changes that it will involve and have taken action or changed their behaviour in some way over the past year.

However, the new Irish research, also revealed that while most consumers believe they are personally responsible for creating a sustainable future, only four in ten people believe they are well informed about sustainability.

The study also found:
  • Nine out of 10 say the climate is changing;
  • Seven in 10 have taken action or changed behaviour in past year;
  • Four in 10 say they are well informed on sustainability, yet 57% believe consumers are responsible for the future;
  • Five in 10 say Ireland’s dairy sector plays an important part in creating a more sustainable future;
  • Seven in 10 say that they would prefer Ireland to continue to be a sustainable dairy agricultural country, rather than becoming more industrialised.

Other findings

The research also provided an insight into the consumption of dairy products in Ireland.

It found:
  • 70% drink milk daily;
  • 51% eat butter daily;
  • 31% eat cheese daily;
  • 25% eat fermented milk products such as yoghurts.

Commenting on the results of the research, Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the NDC, said:

“Irish consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of how and where their food is produced and it is important that they have the information necessary to make informed choices.

“The important place that dairy continues to play in Irish life is evident in the results of this research, not just in relation to diet, but in the context of the contribution that the sector makes to the economy.”

Continuing, she stated: “It’s not too surprising that the majority (87%) believe that dairy produce is nutritious and good for them.

However, it is very encouraging that Irish people are proud of Ireland’s dairy sector and that they recognise its importance to the economy and jobs.

“It is clear from the research too, that many Irish people believe that the dairy industry has a clear responsibility when it comes to sustainability.”

While stating that “sustainability and climate change are pressing challenges that need immediate action globally”.

The Irish and European dairy sector are working hard to be part of the solution.

“We have a strategic national plan to help Ireland’s agri-food industry and support Irish farmers to produce dairy products that are important in the daily diet in a more sustainable way – using new farming practices to reduce their impact on the environment,” she added.

Significant changes

Going further, the NDC boss noted that “significant changes have been made in recent years”on farms.

These include: improvements in soil fertility; water quality; and nutrient management, which, she said: “Will significantly enhance the sustainable performance of Irish dairy”.

The focus now Kavanagh stated is on “continuing to educate the sector on the latest innovations and science-based advice – where they can take simple and effective measures across their farms”.

These include: adapting use from natural resources – such as substituting clover for chemical fertiliser – reducing losses from slurry; incorporating forestry; and hedgerows on farms and more.

“Our task now, through the Sustainable Dairy in Europe project, is to let consumers know of these changes and of Irish farmers’ continued commitment to sustainable farming practices,” Kavanagh concluded