FARM Program and Others Ensure Animal Care, Product Safety
Programs to make dairy foods safer, cows more comfortable and farms eco-friendlier often go unnoticed with the grab-and-go purchase of milk or yogurt in the dairy case.
Few shoppers may realize initiatives such as the FARM program and the Veterinary Feed Directive back nearly every dairy purchase at the grocery store.
“I think that these programs certainly help gain consumer confidence,” says Tasha Bunting, assistant director of commodities and livestock programs for the Illinois Farm Bureau. “It’s maybe just a lack of knowledge that programs like that even exist.”
For example, stricter rules adopted last year in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Veterinary Feed Directive program require all animal owners, including dairy farmers, receive veterinary oversight to administer antibiotics considered medically important to humans. Even when prescribed, the antibiotics never enter the food system. Dairy farmers discard milk from cows under treatment to ensure no antibiotics enter the food system – ever. Since 2011, zero retail-ready milk products have tested positive for traces of antibiotics.
Meanwhile, 98 percent of all U.S. dairy farmers participate in the National Dairy FARM Program. Standing for “Farmers Assuring Responsible Management,” the FARM program demonstrates a farm’s commitment to high standards in the areas of animal care, environmental consciousness and antibiotic stewardship. The National Milk Producers Federation, which operates the program, says the initiative elevates the quality of farm management practices while delivering consumers safe, wholesome dairy products.
“These programs are great opportunities for farmers to learn more about new technology and practices that are changing to help improve their herd’s overall performance, as well as a better way to maintain health and production,” Bunting says. “It’s reassuring for consumers to know there are programs like this in place.”