Indicators and scenarios for Swedish milk

Last changed: 09 November 2023
Cows on a field where the sun goes down. Photo.

Which indicators have contributed to the dramatic structural change in the Swedish dairy sector? Researchers from the program "Sustainable production and consumption of milk", together with researchers from other disciplines, will investigate this to be able to learn from the past and create opportunities for a sustainable future.

Sweden's dairy sector has undergone a dramatic structural transformation over the past 30 years. Eight out of ten dairy farmers have ceased, and the farms are becoming fewer but larger. The cows produce more milk than before, but national production has decreased by 20%.

Will this trend continue and what consequences can it have for rural development, the Swedish landscape, the environment, and the supply of Swedish milk? It is these questions that shape the project "Learning from the past and creating opportunities for a sustainable future: indicators and scenarios for Swedish milk".

Step 1: Identify crucial events and decisions

The first part of the project will look back and identify crucial events and decisions between the years 1990 - 2020 that played a significant role for milk producers and what consequences these events and decisions contributed to. Data are collected from literature, statistics, and contemporary debates. Advisors and others who follow individual farms will be interviewed to get a picture of the farmers' thoughts and reasoning over time.

Through analyzes, the researchers will gradually be able to find an explanation for when and why milk producers have chosen to close their operations. How this reduction in milk producers has affected the values that exist today, regarding the environment, biodiversity and animal welfare will also be examined.

How do we increase the degree of self-sufficiency in Sweden?

In the future, climate change will have major consequences for milk production, both locally and globally. Due to more extreme weather conditions, such as drought or rain, zoonoses are likely to have a new distribution and distribution pattern among cattle. These consequences are potential risks for both deteriorating production at national level and for food imports.

It is therefore necessary to discuss future scenarios where national food production is considered and where lessons from the past are taken into account. By increasing the degree of self-sufficiency in Sweden, we can secure the supply of food in times of crisis and create opportunities for a sustainable future.

Different visions for future milk production

Different stakeholders and authorities have various interests and probably also different visions for future milk production. It can give us several perspectives on the future but also create tensions that, in the long run, prevent development. In the last part of the project, stakeholders will participate in workshops and present scenarios for Swedish milk production. These are discussed in relation to the results from the first part of the project.

Facilitation dialogue for a more sustainable production and consumption

The aim of the project is to highlight differences, difficulties and possible consequences based on stakeholders' and authorities' reasoning about future sustainability, production and consumption. Through a better understanding of how previous decisions have affected the dairy industry, future decision-makers, organizations, and authorities can see differences from a future perspective, and thus facilitate future dialogues about different paths to more sustainable production and consumption. Based on the results, producers and consumers can gain perspective on how they can adapt to future needs and requirements.


Margareta Emanuelson
Assistant Professor, Department of animal nutrition and management
Coordinator for Sustainable diets from sustainable production systems, 018-67 16 49, 0703-35 74 70