Sponsored by California Milk Advisory Board
Increasingly consumers are eager to buy products and patronize businesses that show a sincere commitment to a cleaner, more sustainable future.
In fact, 78% of consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them, and 30% are more likely to purchase products that have sustainable credentials, according to NielsenIQ data.In addition, three top-of-mind environmental topics—zero waste, sustainability, and upcycled foods—rank among the 10 Hot Trends for 2023 cited in the National Restaurant Association 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.
With this as a backdrop, restaurant operators can leverage sustainability stories to connect with customers and encourage regular patronage. Those who feature Real California Milk products on their menus have compelling stories to share.
“California dairy farmers are proud of our leadership in sustainability,” says Tony Louters, dairy farmer and chairman of the California Milk Advisory Board. “Our top priorities are caring for our cows and the land that we farm. And we implement innovative sustainable practices to build our business so we can pass our farm down to future generations.”
That leadership is meaningful to Chef Leah Scurto of PizzaLeah in Windsor, California, known for dressing up artisan pizzas with zesty, colorful ricotta creams made with Real California dairy products.
“There are a lot of sustainable farmers out here,” says Scurto. “We know the animals are being treated properly and the land is taken care of. It's all high-quality milk, all high-quality cheese, and you can taste the difference.”
To their credit, California dairy farmers have been at the forefront of renewable energy generation, waste reduction, and recycling for decades and now lead the world in the development of climate-smart dairy. Over the past 50-plus-years, by implementing leading-edge programs and practices, California dairy farmers have significantly reduced the industry’s environmental footprint, using 89% less land and 88% less water.
“We’re using some of the most innovative practices in the nation,” says Louters. “That includes tapping into California sunshine to run our farms with solar and provide power back to the grid in local communities, installing methane digesters to convert waste into renewable fuels, and upcycling byproducts from California agriculture production to use as high-quality feed for cows to turn into nutritious milk.”
The California dairy industry has a long history of working collaboratively with state officials, university researchers and non-governmental organizations to improve environmental performance. One key strategy is the use of methane digester systems.
The digester works by capturing methane produced by cow waste and converting it into clean energy for vehicles, homes and businesses. By installing digesters, California farmers are not only helping further shrink dairy’s carbon footprint to unprecedented levels, they are also helping the state transition to clean, renewable energy. This is a win-win for the environment, preventing methane from escaping into the atmosphere while replacing fossil fuel with renewable dairy biogas and bio-diesel. This “barn to biogas” bio-diesel is being used to power trucks, cranes and other equipment and the biogas is being converted into clean electricity via fuel cells installed on dairy farms. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from methane digester projects is estimated to be more than 49 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent over the next 25 years. That’s equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 10.7 million passenger vehicles, or the CO2 emissions from electricity used by 8.9 million homes for a year.
As an agriculture rich state, California leads the nation in upcycling byproducts from food and fiber production into nutritious dairy cow feed. Up to 40% of feed ingredients used on California dairies are byproducts, such as almond hulls, citrus and tomato pulp, culled carrots and grape pomace, and spent brewer’s grain that would otherwise go into landfills.
Other Real California Milk sustainability stories come straight from creative chefs and artisans. For instance, Chef Nicolas Delaroque in San Francisco suggests crafting a “Makeover Cheese Rind Mousse” by infusing milk and cream with the leftover rinds/trimmings from aged California aged cheeses. Another example is Wheyward Spirit, a unique, clear specialty spirit made from upcycled whey, the liquid byproduct of California specialty cheesemaking, that would otherwise go to waste.
When sustainability practices dovetail with the California quality dairy tradition, the flavorful results resonate with consumers. In fact, Real California Milk products are ideal building blocks for everything from indulgent cuisine to dishes for plant-forward eaters who insist on the great flavor and nutrition they can only get from real food.
“We're seeing people really fall in love with local produce and veggies,” says Chef Thomas Garnick. For him, California dairy products are “a beautiful bridge” that brings flavor, texture, and richness to plant-forward cooking. “That's why we really love partnering with California cheeses,” says Garnick. “There are so many amazing artisans out there creating such a variety—whether it's aged, hard cheeses or fresh, young, soft cheeses.”
At Socalo in Santa Monica, California, the quality and consistency of a signature blend of Mexican-style California cheeses—Manchego, Cotija and Panela—are fundamental to the vibrant Cal-Mex cooking of Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. For example, grilling that melted three-cheese blend on blue corn tortillas makes Socalo’s popular Vampiro Tacos so irresistibly golden, lacy, and flavorsome. “We use a lot of cheeses and cream and milk from California because they're absolutely the tastiest,” says Milliken.
Visit https://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/foodservice for more ways to uplift your menu with the sustainability stories and great flavor of Real California Milk products.