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15
APRIL 2018
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Cover Story
APRIL 2018
Cover Story
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
abundance of grass that we grow in Ireland. Two-thirds of
Irish land is given over to agriculture and 80 per cent of that
is grass based. We have grass-fed cows converting inedible
protein into a highly nutritious product that includes protein,
calcium, vitamin B12 for energy and vitality, as well as iodine for
cognitive thinking. There is, unfortunately, some confusion and
a growing disconnection from the common-sense approach to
diet. That's the big challenge we need to take on now. We need
to ensure dairy does not fall off people's shopping lists, because
it is such a powerful product to have as part of your daily
nutritional intake."
Confronting vegan ideology
ZoŽ addresses the opposition to dairy and livestock
farming in general, being driven mainly, she believes, by
vegan ideology: "A small percentage of the population
pursue a vegan diet and lifestyle. They are perfectly
entitled to do that. Dietary choices at an individual
level are a personal decision. There are many people
pursuing responsible vegan diets but the area where,
frankly, we will not remain silent is when, in Ireland,
there are suggestions around animal welfare issues. In
this country, we have the privilege of animals grazing
300 days every year. They have all of the animal
freedoms one would expect. The care and attention
to welfare is demonstrated through the performance
of the herd, where all the indicators of a low-stress
environment are easily identifi able. That includes yield
and body condition score. Our dairy animals are well
looked after by 17,000 dairy farm families every day of
the year. The inaccuracies in the anti-dairy campaign
include suggestions that there are problems with animal
welfare practices. It is a highly regulated food-production
sector and our farmers are recognised as the best dairy
producers in the world because of the natural, grass-based
diet our cows enjoy and the fact that our family-based
dairy farms ensure the kinds of intensive production
methods common in some other countries are not
practised here. It is an outdoor system, that ensures our cows
live and produce milk in a low-stress environment."
The NDC agenda
The NDC dairy promotion programme is impressive, as
outlined by its chief executive: "Our main objective is to clearly
position dairy as part of our food-health solutions. We will
do that in the coming period in a variety of ways. Our latest
campaign is called `Irish Dairy ≠ the Complete Natural'. The
NDC launched it last November and it is targeted at a younger
audience to build relevance in their lives and [awareness of]
the positive role dairy can play in their lives.
"Combined with that, we also have a series of events which
demonstrate the role dairy plays across the life stages. This
month [March], we have a week-long promotion around the
role milk can play in the health of primary school kids. Then
there is an event on April 26 called HealthFest. That targets
transition-year students, of which 3,500 will come out to the
National Sports Campus where they will undertake a training
programme that includes mental and physical health and good
nutrition. Through our whole sports activation initiative, we are
positioning dairy at the centre of exercise-recovery strategies.
That can be casual exercise or more serious sports engagement,
where dairy has a very positive role to play in muscle and bone
health.
"The role of iodine is another dairy health initiative that we
are promoting. It's hugely important for cognitive function,
and we will be running seminars featuring health professionals
outlining the matrix eff ect, not only of milk but also of cheese,
where the sum of the parts deliver positive health benefi ts."
The four food attributes of dairy
ZoŽ has an overall view of the importance of dairy in
the national diet: "In terms of the regular shopper in the
supermarket store, we have an ongoing communication
programme, reinforcing why dairy should be an integral part
of the daily diet. Ultimately, this is about building dairy into
Ireland's food health programme. Population health is very
important. A country needs to supply its people with food that
is nutrient-rich, aff ordable, culturally acceptable and appealing.
Those four food attributes are perfectly captured in dairy, and
we have an entire dairy portfolio produced naturally in this
country."