How Data in the Dairy Supply Chain Improves Transparency

Farmers have no incentive to make cows unhappy. Happy cows produce more milk. Happy cows are healthy. Happy cows live longer.

If cows could talk, they’d likely gladly tell us about what they did at work all day. Almost half of their day includes lying down, four hours are spent eating, and the remaining eight hours are standing, drinking, or being milked, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.
All this time, cows are collecting data. The data streams the cows generate from their activity on a dairy farm are used to measure the animals’ happiness and well-being. Farmers then use this operational data to care for the animals that provide milk for the dairy products we consume every day. What if we used the same data that tells farmers if cows are happy to tell consumers the same thing?

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

W. Edwards Deming


of consumers pursue more responsibly produced products when possible


cite limited availability of responsibly produced products as a barrier

Consumers Demand Responsibly Produced Products

Consumers increasingly demand a transparent dairy supply chain to be confident they are buying and eating ethically. In fact, 84% of consumers pursue more responsibly produced products wherever possible, and 81% cited the lack of availability as a barrier. The dairy farms dedicated to animal welfare, sustainability, and compliance have an opportunity to highlight their animal husbandry practices to consumers as a way of building a competitive advantage.

Benefits of Supply Chain Transparency

There are so many reasons to embrace supply chain transparency. Sales are driven by trust and proven data and essentially build brand reputation. If I like my food locally sourced, I need reliable evidence that it did come from my area, such as information on the actual route taken to my store. If I want my food ethically sourced, I need the ability to learn more about how it was produced from an audited dairy farm. All this comes down to data availability. Data that starts out as a differentiator but gradually surfaces as significant, consistent, and reinforcing data.

Data Drives a Competitive Advantage

Farmer’s data used to make sound business decisions can create competitive advantages in a commoditized industry. Consumer demand should trigger supply. When the price is the deciding factor, consumers don’t want to question how it can be produced cheaply, and the suppliers don’t want to tell them. A trusting supply chain has immense value to dairy farmers, but it’s a threat to those who rely upon an opaque supply chain. With any premier brand, the value is to differentiate themselves strategically from generic products. But for commodities, we’ve been hesitant to let people look under the hood, so to speak. Once farmers utilize data to demonstrate their remarkable farming practices, the value of their product will rise.

Providing the Data Consumers Seek

As consumers begin seeking traceable and ethically sourced dairy products, they will naturally expect and select them more. In time, the companies that don’t offer supply chain data transparency will lose customers and eventually fade via reduced sales. There will come a time when ambiguity hinders a brand and risks discrediting its image. Farmers put a lot of hard work and dedication into caring for dairy cows. They need to share the important message that only happy cows can fully provide sustenance for human life. The special bond between cows and people extends beyond farmers. It’s time to let people know about the farm behind their food.
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