“The Irish dairy-product portfolio is your desert-island solution,” said National Dairy Council (NDC) chief executive, Zoe Kavanagh.

Zoe was speaking at a seminar today (Wednesday, June 15) at the farm of Alex, Mary, Ita and Michael McCarthy – winners of the National Dairy Council (NDC) and Kerrygold Milk Quality Awards in 2021.

The seminar, ‘Dairy and its role in sustainable diets of the future’ involved the NDC, Kerry Agribusiness, Ornua and Teagasc and took place in advance of a farm walk on the McCarthy’s dairy farm in Feenagh, Co. Limerick.

Speakers, contributors and panellists included nutritionist with the NDC, Dr. Yvonne Finnegan; agri-food journalist, Suzanne Campbell; farmer and host Michael McCarthy; head of dairy knowledge transfer at Teagasc, Joe Patton; food journalist, Dee Laffan; and services and sustainability manager with Kerry Agribusiness, Sean McCarthy.

In her opening address, the NCD chief executive commented on the current situation where the consumer seeks answers to questions around the environmental cost of the food they consume and its nutritional benefits.

This, she said, gives us an opportunity to reaffirm Ireland’s dairy credentials.

NDC chief executive , Zoe Kavanagh, speaking at a seminar on the farm of the McCarthy family in Limerick

“At NDC, we relish taking on that education because there is no doubt that the Irish dairy-product portfolio is your desert island solution,” she said.

“It is packed with nutrients and the reason we have taken the theme today of talking about dairy within a sustainable diet is because we realise it is our silver bullet.

“So when we consider food security and when we consider population health, be it in the developed world or the developing world, dairy is an incredible opportunity.”

She spoke of the important role that the milk awards play in promoting Ireland’s positive farming story. Such awards, she said, provide “further proof points and content to bridge the divide between the questioning consumer and Ireland’s farming families”.

“That is the space that the NDC sits in,” she added.

“We are about speaking to the public, who are the consumers, and almost re-introducing dairy to them, re-introducing farmers to them, almost saying that this is a re-set, that you need to realise what makes Ireland unique with our grass-based system – ultimately that is shorthand for saying ‘incredibly carbon efficient’.”

Ireland feeds the world, she said, and rightly so.

“We are in the business of feeding 45 million people annually and rightfully so, because you would design the world in the way that you would produce dairy in Ireland every day of the week. 

“Leave the avocados to Mexico, the coffee to Brazil, you would put dairy in Ireland any day of the week,” she said.

And Ireland’s environmental credentials are incredibly strong too, she said: “On a farming family level in conjunction with Teagasc, in conjunction with the co-op, in conjunction with Bord Bia through the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme – in Ireland, we have all the pieces of the jigsaw on the table to succeed when challenged with climate targets and reputation.”