Today is Back British Farming Day, a day where we take a moment to appreciate the British farming industry, from our farmers to the animals and the wonderfully nutritious products they produce. We are exploring the benefits of dairy products and the current challenges the industry faces.
Is milk good for us?
Dietary requirements vary from person to person; however, dairy milk is a great way for us to consume the essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to function every day. Milk has been a historical dietary staple for both adults and children, and over 46,000 years. This has lead our bodies to evolved to utilise the nutrients within. For example, bovine milk is energy dense, which means its very useful for young children who are still growing, as calcium is required to harden and strengthen their bones. For older adults, consuming products which are high in protein, like whole milk, is vital to maintain bone density and slow the onset of sarcopenia.
Why do we need dairy products?
Don’t assume milk is only useful for children and grandparents, we are craving all the goodness milk can provide before we are even born. During pregnancy it is vital for the baby to receive all the necessary nutrition. Malnourishment at this stage can have a knock-on effect on cognitive, motor and social development and even influence their success at school later in life. If a mother is undernourished, the likelihood of the foetus being undernourished is inevitable, therefore consuming vitamin and mineral rich products like milk and other dairy products can give a baby the best possible start in life.
Ok so we have established that children need nutrition to develop, but what are they getting from dairy products? Let’s explore!
· Dairy products provide children with essential nutrients such as calcium, protein and Vitamin A – vital for bone development and health
· B2 and B12 – contributes to normal skin maintenance and the production of red blood cells
Although they like to rebel from anything the majority participate in, our grumpy teenagers also need a rich supply of nutrients, which can be found in dairy products.
Calcium needs are increased during adolescence due to the growth spurt teenagers experience. 90% of an individual’s bone strength will be achieved by the time they reach their 18th birthday, highlighting how important it is to maintain a balanced diet from a young age. According to research from National Diet & Nutrition Survey in 2017, teenage girls tended to be missing out on valuable calcium.
Adults need nutrition too! Bones are continuing to strengthen throughout the 30s, therefore skipping out on dairy products isn’t going to do your bones any favours. Bone density does begin to occur in adulthood, especially for women approaching and experiencing menopause. During this stage there is an increased risk of brittle bones, which could lead to bone fractures.
Farmers are under a lot of pressure in this present day when it comes to environmental issues. As the nutritious value of dairy products to humans is recognised, steps are being put in place to reduce the impact of production on the environment. To compare, the UK has less of an impact on the planet when it comes to dairy production than the United States. In the UK and Wales especially, lower impact production systems are more common. Additionally, pasture-based cows are seen to be better for the environment as apposed to cows who solely rely on soya and grain-based feed, although the debate on this matter is still ongoing.
As reported by the BBC last month, the NFU have an ongoing campaign to reduce the emissions of British farmers, with a target of net-zero emissions by 2040. Furthermore, research is currently underway into replacing current systems with more environmentally friendly ones, for example, using robots to undertake day-to-day farming tasks such as feeding, weeding, mapping and monitoring soil instead of the traditional diesel fuelled tractors.
How can consumers eat dairy products and be environmentally aware at the same time?
Giving the consumers a choice. Make the consumer aware of where their products have come from and whether they have been sourced locally or not. Organic products at supermarkets means no artificial fertilisers were used during production and less intensive farming, which may sway a customer when choosing to buy.
The dairy industry is one that can undergo severe criticism at times, although we forget all the nutrition dairy products can provide us with to grow and life a healthy life. If consumed as part of a well-balanced diet, dairy products can benefit us from day one in the life cycle and for many years to come!