With 265,000t of butter produced in Ireland in 2020, it placed third in Europe for butter production.

While the highest level of dairy-product production came from the most populous countries, there were a few exceptions – Ireland being one of them – according to a recently published Eurostat report, Key figures on the European food chain.

Looking at the share of EU dairy products in 2020, the report notes that some of the principal dairy products that are produced in the EU include: drinking milk; whey, the by-product of cheese production; butter; and cheese.

Share of butter production in EU, 2020. Image source: Key figures on the European food chain

Germany had the highest level of production for all four of these dairy products in 2020: 14 million tonnes of whey; 4.6 million tonnes of drinking milk; 2.4 million tonnes of cheese; and 434,000 tonnes of butter.

Joining Ireland in the ‘exception-to-the-rule’ category in 2020 was the Netherlands, which had the second-highest level of production for whey – 9.4 million tonnes, or 16.9% – and the fourth highest for cheese – 1 million tonnes, or 9.7%.

Share of whey production in EU, 2020. Image source: Key figures on the European food chain

Ireland, again, punching above its weight in the whey department was fifth, with 7.1% of total production, behind Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

Milk collection

According to Key figures on the European food chain, there are a few EU member states where livestock other than cows make an important contribution to overall
milk production.

This is the case in many rural or arid regions, particularly in the Mediterranean area.

In 2020, there were 684,000 tonnes of ewes’ milk delivered to dairies in Greece, with relatively high levels also recorded in Spain – 589,000 tonnes; Italy – 453,000 tonnes; and France – 306,000 tonnes.

The main producers of goats’ milk in the EU were France, with 523,000 tonnes delivered to dairies; Spain with 512,000 tonnes; the Netherlands, on 407,000 tonnes; and Greece, 156,000 tonnes.

In Italy, 229,000 tonnes of milk delivered to dairies came from buffaloes; this was more than 95% of the EU total.