Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani intends to further its commitment to its dairy farmers and their communities and bring greater transparency to the dairy industry through a new initiative.

Called Milk Matters, the initiative was developed with input from the industry and elected officials to address the economic, environmental and social impacts of milk production.

It will address worker well-being, environmental stewardship and animal care through third-party certification, providing a premium to dairy farmers for their milk. It also continues Chobani’s commitment to local sourcing and community investment.

“Dairy farms are the backbone of the communities we call home,” Hamdi Ulukya, Chobani founder and CEO, said in a press release.

But the current model is broken, and it’s leaving consumers questioning everything, including the treatment of animals, farmworkers and the land, he said.

“Our solution is simple but powerful. We all have a responsibility to support the farmers who make our business and our vision possible,” he said.

Chobani is collaborating with Fair Trade USA to develop a certification standard that supports dairy workers with safety and training programs and minimum wage requirements. It will also include a worker hotline and resources for other issues.

The certification will require audits, but the frequency of audits has not yet been determined, a Chobani spokesman told Capital Press.

Farmers agreeing to the Fair Trade USA vetting process will receive a premium for their milk. While the range of premiums has not yet been determined, it could be from 2% to 4% above market price, he said.

Chobani is also collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and National Milk Producers Federation through its FARM program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) to measure greenhouse gas emissions and energy use on dairy farms to identify possible efficiencies and cost savings.

It will work with WWF to expand its set of environmental indicators for dairy farm sustainability, including soil health, nutrient management and water quality and quantity. And farmers can assess their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use through NMPF’s program, he said.

There will also be continued reliance on NMPF’s FARM animal care program. All the farms that supply milk to Chobani through dairy cooperatives already participate in that program, and they will need to comply with the latest version of the program by December.

The FARM program started in 2009, and participation represents 98% of the milk produced in the U.S., Alan Bjerga, NMPF senior vice president of communications, said.

“It’s a testament to the rigor and quality of the FARM program that it plays such a key role in Chobani’s Milk Matters initiative,” he said.

“We support efforts to continually improve the strength of the dairy industry and applaud Chobani’s commitment,” he said.

Milk Matters is working toward full implementation by 2025.

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