An estimated 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). On the other hand, a quarter of the world’s population does not have regular access to a healthy diet. The paradox is clear: improving our food resources’ management is key to our future, with far-reaching positive outcomes on both people and the planet.

As a player committed to healthier and responsible food for all, Bel is working with determination to fight against food waste at each stage of its value chain, from farm to fork – starting with milk, one of our main raw materials. Being part of the Food Waste Coalition of Action from The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) since 2019, Bel is also convinced that positive change must come through collective action, from the citizens who eat the final products to those who assembled, packaged, distributed, or shelved food, and including the farmers who took care of the cows and the soil.

Preventing milk losses in dairy farms

Bel recognizes the importance of addressing food loss at dairy farm level. Before milking, potential losses include decreased productivity due to infections (mastitis during lactation), or treatments impacting the milk’s quality. In some cases, milk of the first six days is simply deemed unfit for human consumption. For instance, this is the case under EU regulation – meaning that adapting to local legislation by implementing different practices in each dairy basin is paramount. After milking, other potential losses can occur. Power failures may happen, preventing the tanks from cooling down and altering the milk’s quality; this can also happen in trucks during transport. Milk loss can also stem from antibiotic residues being found.

The sector’s practices have evolved over the years and have reached high standards of food loss prevention and management. As a player collecting over 1,200,000,000 liters from 9 dairy basins, and working with 1 400 partner farmers, Bel can testify to the sector’s good practices and approach as well as highlight some solutions.

Encouraging and implementing concrete solutions

The priority is to prevent mastitis apparition: each mastitis case may lead to a total loss of an average of 235 kg of milk on the whole lactation period, according to French professional organization CNIEL. Thankfully, prevention factors are well-researched. Decreased productivity can be averted through upholding rigorous hygienic standards. Moreover, a sustainable use of antibiotics can be encouraged to manage mastitis treatment. Thirdly, giving calves milk for at least the first six days to prevent it from being discarded is a sustainable practice which can be encouraged.

Bel partners with farmers in many regions and is in constant dialogue with them to further improve their herds’ health and wellbeing, which helps against milk losses. In France, Portugal, the Azores, Morocco, and Iran, milk advisers visit farmers to provide support on hygienic practices or antibiotic use. Local teams also implement communications such as magazines, informational sheets, or messaging groups to bolster good practices. Depending on local needs and challenges, Bel sets up specific trainings – for instance on hygienic milking in Morocco, on alternatives to antibiotics in France and Portugal, or on good feeding practices for calves in the Azores.

A holistic approach

Fighting food waste is about acting responsibly throughout the entire value chain.

A player such as Bel also contributes to farmers producing the right amount needed by committing to buy certain volumes or by collecting the milk produced all year long, locally and regularly – every two or three days, even in case of peak output. Thus, 100% of the milk produced is aimed to be used. On our production sites, we strive to minimize waste and use all the components of the milk collected. 99% of the by-products from cheese production, such as cream, are put to use – for instance in the composition of other recipes based on a circular economy with no waste. And at the end of the chain, the individual portion which is at the heart of Bel’s model provides consumers the right amount of nutrition and helps avoid food waste.