Based on a study done by Thoma et al. (2010) the energy used in fluid milk processing in the United States of America is responsible for approximately 2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the total life cycle of milk. These emissions come from electricity use (about 75 percent), fuel use (about 23 percent) and refrigerant leakage (2 percent). While energy efficiency best practices exist that can help fluid milk plants reduce energy use, emissions and operating costs, one of the biggest challenges to implementation among processors is lack of verified information for better decision making by processors on the appropriate energy efficiency practices and technologies for adoption in their plants. Dairy Plant Smart is one of ten projects launched by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to reduce GHG across the entire dairy supply chain. This paper will describe how the Dairy Plant Smart project is encouraging identification and adoption of energy management best practices in milk processing plants through increasing awareness among processors of the economic feasibility of energy efficiency projects, and encouraging their adoption through access to benchmarking and other decision support tools.
Fresh dairy products in the form of fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream play a significant role in providing consumers in the United States with high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals and other bioactive compounds. Dried and condensed products such as nonfat dried milk, whey, whey protein concentrates and isolates are also produced and are used as ingredients to enhance the nutritional and functional properties of a range of other food products including beverages, cultured products, ice creams and frozen desserts. Tomasula and Nutter (2011) reported that "the United States has over 1000 processing plants producing about 182 billion pounds of milk products per year with over 395 fluid milk plants producing over 57 billion pounds of fluid milk per year (IDFA, 2007), which contribute approximately $140 billion per year to the U.S. economy. The United States is the largest dairy producer in the world because of its production efficiency and state-of-the-art processing plants (US DEC, 2007), providing almost 20% of the world's milk supply."
In 2008, a consortium of dairy industry leaders launched the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment, a major initiative to meet the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and build business value across the value chain. The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment is a top priority of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an organization that brings together industry leaders including producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers. Together, the industry has committed to a voluntary goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by the year 2020. To meet this goal, in 2009 the Innovation Center launched a series of ten projects that will reduce GHG emissions and deliver economic value across the value chain. When fully implemented, these projects will reduce emissions by approximately 11 percent and create an estimated $238 million in business value. The projects address opportunities across the value chain, from production of feed for dairy cows to processing, packaging and distribution of milk (US Dairy, 2009).