GREEN BAY, Wis. ― Dairy’s impact on the environment ― the so-called “carbon footprint” — goes down when production efficiency goes up.

“The carbon footprint of a glass of milk is two-thirds smaller today than it was 70 years ago,” internationally recognized air quality expert Frank Mitloehner told those attending the Vita Plus Dairy Summit on Wednesday.

The basic premise is this: When production efficiency goes up, fewer cows are needed to produce the nation’s milk supply, which lessens pressure on the environment.

Yet, the news media continues to run stories that cows are responsible for much of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. See “Cows singled out again on gas emissions.”

Mitloehner encouraged those in attendance on Wednesday to go out and engage the news media and general public on this issue. “If they don’t hear from you, they will hear from PETA” and other activist groups, he said.

“I really think you have to step forward and meet that challenge of telling people where their food comes from,” he said.

And the production efficiencies make for a compelling case.

“I think the way we produce livestock in this country will be viewed as a role model for the rest of the world,” Mitloehner added.

Since production efficiencies create a smaller carbon footprint, he said it’s important “to hold onto the technologies that have allowed us to become so efficient.” He cited bovine somatotropin as an example.

Mitloehner, professor and air quality cooperative extension specialist at the University of California-Davis, has been named chairman of the United Nations/FAO partnership on Livestock Environment Assessment and Performance (LEAP). A science-based organization like LEAP may be able to get some of the media attention that has gone to activist groups in the past.