Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors' sustainability programs are a part of that.
This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.