John Calton, Head Chef of Staith House and former Top 50 Gastropubs Chef of the Year meets dairy farmer Tom Neill, an Arla farmer-owner at Thornington Farm. With just 50 miles between them, both Tom and John were keen to understand more about their respective craft and expertise.
When it comes to sustainability, Arla Pro and the farmers that own it don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. It’s part of everything we do, and it’s why we’re a trusted partner of some of the biggest names in foodservice.
Increasingly it’s a topic that is becoming a deciding factor in where consumers buy and eat their food. They want companies to be responsible, and that adds an additional decision to chefs when thinking about what ingredients to buy.
Price is of course important, as is ease of use and product performance. But product quality, traceability and responsible sourcing influence consumer choice and that’s why chefs are increasingly turning to Arla Pro. Being farmer-owned gives us complete control across the entire production process, something which is important not only to consumers, but also to chefs like Jesse Dunford Wood, from Parlour, who “leans towards Arla because of the links to the farmers who produce the product.”
Being farmer owned, we have visibility of our whole supply chain and sustainability plays a part across the board. The 11,200 farmers that own Arla, 2,500 of whom are based in the UK, work continuously to reduce the carbon footprint of their own farms and are well on the way to reducing their combined footprint by 30% between 2015 and 2020.
Jonathan Dixon, Vice President of Arla Pro UK comments, “As guardians of Britain’s countryside, our farmer owners take the issue of environment very seriously and this shows across all areas of our business. We’ve worked had over decade to ensure we are as responsible and sustainable as possible.”
Despite having grown by 50% since 2005 we have reduced our total greenhouse emissions by 16% for processing, transport and packaging and we’ve an ambition to make that 25% by 2020. We’ve also got our eye firmly on renewable energy and by 2020 at least half of the energy we use will come from renewable sources like biomass, wind and water. At our Aylesbury dairy, the UK’s largest milk processing plant, we’ve worked with Olleco to open an Anaerobic Digestion plant nearby which provides power to the plant and has made our Aylesbury site carbon zero. A similar initiative also runs at our Lockerbie site in Scotland.
But to us, sustainable goes wider than the environment, it goes right to the heart of how we do business. Sustainable farming and the welfare of animals go hand in hand, because healthy, happy cows produce milk of a higher quality which helps enhance the dishes you serve. And its shown by our actions as a business. We’ve invested in our operations so that we can work with Fareshare in the UK. This ensures that foodbanks and charities can benefit from nutritious dairy products which may previously have been wasted.
It’s that attention to detail which has helped our many of our Arla brand back of house products gain the endorsement of the Craft Guild of Chefs, providing the peace of mind that these products not only taste great, but also deliver operationally.
So, from some of the UK’s market-leading brands, including Lurpak, Castello, Anchor and Cravendale, to those foodserivce-specific dairy ingredients that sit under the Arla brand, we have the right products for chefs working in all types of kitchen.
Jonathan Dixon, Vice President Arla Pro, UK
Vice President - Arla Pro UK
Ensuring sustainable options are right for your business
What are the main issues surrounding sustainability in the industry?
When you work for 11,200 farmer owners, 2,500 of which are UK farmers, sustainability and our impact on the environment is always at the heart of what we do. But we all know that when we think of sustainability, it can be a minefield of options. We all need to ratify which is best for the environment as well as our own business. A big part of choosing the correct option is whether there is some interest or benefit to the customer – whether that’s the consumer or, in our case, the foodservice business we work with and their end customer. This is a consideration that often arises at Arla as we seek to be as sustainable as possible; from our farmer owners, to our production and transportation and on to the packaging used for our products.
How can the industry tackle the issue of waste?
Restaurants should be looking at suppliers who share their views on reducing food waste, so that sustainability takes centre stage throughout the food chain. Our UK operations are zero waste to landfill and we’ve also led the industry with the development of our zero-emission sites. At our Aylesbury dairy, the UK’s largest milk processing plant, we worked with Olleco to open an anaerobic digestion plant nearby that provides power to the plant and has made our Aylesbury site carbon zero.
What should restaurants do to reduce packaging in their businesses?
The best decisions for sustainable food packaging can only be made if every environmental footprint is included from raw materials to manufacturing, to transport to what happens with the product after use. So when you find a product that ticks every sustainable box, it makes those business decisions so much easier. In foodservice, the boundaries are blurring between operational decisions and customer demands for visibility on sustainability. This also pans out in food provenance and traceability. Showing you know where the ingredients you use come from is increasingly becoming a benchmark on which trust is built between foodservice operators and their customers. For me, that’s when you know you’re making the right choices on sustainability. When it doesn’t just work for the environment, but it brings operational and customer benefits too.
What has Arla done to reduce plastic in the supply chain?
When Arla thinks sustainable, it looks at the whole lifecycle impact. Plastics is a good example. Our product development is ongoing in this area. We’ve reduced the weight of all our plastic milk bottles by up to 20%, currently 82% of plastic used to package Arla’s products is recyclable, we are working to make this 100% and we use up to 30% of recycled content in all plastic milk bottles and will increase this to 50% by 2020. We believe this approach of constantly challenging ourselves to be as sustainable as we can be not only helps spread cost, but ensures sustainability remains front of mind.