Sustainability can be a problem at many dairies, but in this blog series intern Alicia gets the deets on some eco-friendly cheesemakers from across the map. Find out what makes each cheese green, and enter the weekly contest for a chance to win an issue of culture.
When discussing sustainable farms, many people automatically think of alternative energy sources or ways to reduce waste and combat climate change. Fewer think of world hunger as the issue at hand. After all, these farms create food. How could they contribute to a food shortage?
That is exactly the question that Sam Galphin, co-owner and manager of The Cultured Cow Creamery in Durham, North Carolina, wants you to be asking. “We’re just a couple of old guys who want to impact the future for their families and the world,” Galphin says. “If people are hungry in 30 years, my kids will not have the same world that I have.”
In 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that nearly 1 billion people worldwide were considered hungry or undernourished. On traditional farms, soy and corn are typically used to feed the animals. Not only are these more difficult for cows to digest than traditional grasses, these foods are diverted from the human food stream and into that of the animal agriculture industry. As much as 80 percent of the global soybean crop and 40 to 50 percent of the annual corn crop are fed to cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals used in agriculture. The use of grain for animal feed is an extremely inefficient use of food. Typically, 6.6 pounds of grain is needed to produce just 2.2 pounds of meat.
By feeding animals food fit for human consumption, it is converted into a less usable form, resulting in less food for those that need it. Galphin aims to change all that. “We don’t feed the animals anything from the human food chain,” he explains. “We feed them things like by-products that people can no longer eat. You don’t have to have soy and corn to make milk.”
With 100 cows to feed, this approach is good for the wallet, too. According to Galphin, “Our way is probably cheaper, but there’s a little more work involved.”
Not only does The Cultured Cow Creamery take care to not use human-bound food, they are also sensitive about their water use. They don’t use any municipal water, instead relying on water from their on-property wells and ponds.
Centered in the “research triangle” formed by North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Cultured Cow Creamery is involved with numerous research groups and committees, with Galphin even serving as an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University. The goal? Educate the community on how to grow food locally.
But are these extra steps a viable option for other dairies? Galphin says that that’s the whole point. “We’re not worried about making a living from the dairy, but we are worried about making it sustainable. Everybody may not do all of these things, but they may pick up different parts of it. Our plan is to change that template that is presently in place and let the private farms share in that research.”
This week’s contest question is: How do you reduce waste in your own diet? Submit your answer in the comments below by Thursday, March 20 at 12:00p.m. EDT for a chance to win the current issue of culture. The winner will be chosen at random and announced in next week’s Green Cheese post.
Tune in next week to hear from Grafton Village Cheese, a Vermont creamery that aids rural communities in their area.