Supply Chain
of Fresh Milk

Learn how fresh milk is processed until it reaches the refrigerated display cases of REWE Group stores: Which challenges regarding feed and milk production have to be met? Which standards apply to organic milk and what does PRO PLANET mean in terms of milk?

Dr Klaus Mayer, the Head of Quality Assurance at REWE Group, talks about REWE Group's supply chain in an interview

To the interview

Milk Production

Milk production is a fundamental component of German agriculture. A cow must have given birth to a calf in order to produce milk. Afterwards, a high-performance milk cow in a conventional farming operation will initially produce up to 50 litres per day. By contrast, a cow in an organic farming operation will frequently produce only about 20 litres.

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Challenges in conventional milk production

Environment

  • Production of climate-damaging methane by the digestive process of cows
  • Soybeans used in feed are frequently and increasingly grown overseas in monoculture farming operations that use controversial genetically modified plants.
    The result:
    • Intensive use of pesticides
    • The loss of good practical farming knowledge
    • The loss of environmentally valuable areas as a result of direct and indirect changes in land use
    • Release of CO2 trapped in soil
    • Energy consumption from overseas transport

Social

  • Pressure on small-farming structures
  • Health risks to nearby residents and workers through the use of pesticides during cultivation of soybeans used in feed
  • road fluctuations in milk prices

Animal welfare

  • Confined stalls that lack bedding and insufficient grazing prevent animals from engaging in natural social interaction
  • Breeding goals and management systems designed to achieve high production frequently result in health problems and infertility among the animals. Premature slaughtering is frequently the only option.
  • Some farms continue to use tie-stalls for their cows
  • Painful procedures are performed on animals, including dehorning of calves

What we are doing

European organic logo & the Naturland label

Seventeen per cent of REWE Group's store-brand fresh milk is produced by organic farms. In addition to meeting the criteria of the EU organic farming regulation, this milk is certified by the Naturland environmental association. These certifications facilitate a more sustainable approach to milk production through such requirements as:

  • Animal feed must be organic and predominantly produced by the farm itself or by a regional cooperative. Under the Naturland certification programme, green feed like grass or hay must be provided in the summer. As a result, cows used in organic farming operations produce less milk each year but live longer lives than high-performance cows do.
  • Organic cows have more stall space with sunlight, lying areas equipped with bedding and access to pastures or exercise.
  • The permitted stocking density is tied to the farm size "organic cowsto create a balance between feed cultivation and the area to which manure is applied.

PRO PLANET

In 2012, a partnership was established with the dairy Marburger Traditionsmolkerei. In this alliance, more than 60 milk farmers in the central German state of Hesse produce PRO PLANET certified fresh milk, cream and sour cream for REWE Group.

The dairy ensures regionality in terms of supplier selection and the sale of the milk products. In addition, only GM-free feed containing European protein components like rapeseed meal is used, and no soybean products grown overseas are utilised. As a result, long transport distances and additional land usage changes that turn formerly environmentally valuable areas into monocultures can be prevented.
No longer using overseas soybean products fosters the use of German and European protein feed. In particular, the cultivation and use of German legumes like field peas and broad beans will play a key role in the promotion of sustainability in our farming.

To facilitate the future availability of regionally produced PRO PLANET milk and dairy products in more and more areas, REWE Group is planning for dairies in other regions to make a gradual transition to GM-free feed.

4.3 Mio. Number of milk cows in Germany: about 4.3 million

Germany has about 2,000 organic milk farms that have an average of 30 cows each

500 Mio. Each year, 500 million litres of organic milk are produced in Germany

Dairies

Raw milk undergoes a cooling process at the farm and is then taken to the dairy by a refrigerated tank truck. Normally, it is collected in huge chilled tanks. It is then warmed and clarified before preparation. Afterwards, the cream and skim milk are separated. The milk is then homogenised, heated once again and chilled. Finally, it is processed further or filled into containers.

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35 Germany has about
35 organic dairies

Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • Substantial electricity and heating needs

What we are doing

Environment

The Marburger Traditionsmolkerei has set the goal of having a climate-friendly production process in place within the next three years. This goal is to be achieved with the help of milk suppliers and their energy-supply systems as well as with the dairy's own measures, including implementing heat-recovery technology and a solar energy unit.

The so-called prolong process will be used as well. During this double bacteria-removal process, several decontamination steps are undertaken consecutively, and centrifugation is used. This facilitates gentle processing and avoids unnecessarily heating the milk.

Logistics

The milk is transported from the dairy to logistics centres and then shipped to REWE Group stores.

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Industry-related challenges

Environment

  • Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions

What we are doing

Logistik

Reducing the use of resources through optimised logistics and the expanded use of milk production, collection and processing as well as regional sales channels (see "Smart Logistics")

REWE Group Stores

The stores of REWE Group serve as interfaces between producers and consumers. This is where the milk reaches customers.

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58 kg About 58 kilograms of milk are consumed each year on a per capita basis in Germany
38 Mio. Each year, 38 million litres of fresh milk are more sustainably produced for REWE Group.

Industry-related challenges

Social

  • Consumer information about more sustainable milk

Environment

  • Energy-intensive refrigeration

What we are doing

Environment

  • Glazing of refrigerating units
  • Use of more environmentally conscious refrigerants
  • REWE Group informs and educates consumers through such programmes as the PRO PLANET label, the PRO PLANET website, the Internet in general, social media channels and fliers. The Sustainability Weeks play a major role in this effort.

All figures that do not apply specifically to REWE Group were obtained from widely available business publications.

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