Arla Foods, headquartered in Viby, Denmark, is an international dairy co-operative that manufactures a wide range of dairy products for sale in world markets. The co-operative is owned by its 12,000 farmer owners in seven European countries. Together, they produce 13.9 billion kilograms of milk per year. Arla has production facilities in 14 countries and sales offices in 34 countries. Products are sold under the Arla, Lurpak and Castello brands. The co-operative employs 19,000 people and has annual revenues of €9.6 billion, making it one of Europe’s biggest dairy companies.
M2 magazine spoke to Thomas Kröber of Arla about the co-operative and about Arlagården®, their quality assurance programme.
Arla’s vision and mission
As a dairy company, Arla’s vision is “to create the future of dairy to bring health and inspiration to the
Arla aims to improve and refine what they deliver and to develop solutions for the future. These include: new products for consumers, new technologies and more effective ways of working, better value for customers, healthier and more natural foods, greater social responsibility, improved food safety, and a reduced impact on the environment and climate.
The Arla mission is to obtain the highest possible value for the milk produced by their farmer ownersand to create opportunities for growth in the business.
It is important that farmer owners are confident that their milk can be sold – not just now, but into the future. Without a secure future outlook, farmers will not be able to develop their own farms.
The Arlagården programme is a vitally important pillar within the company and it makes a major contribution to promoting Arla Foods’ vision and achieving its mission.
The Arlagården programme feeds into a number of other tenets at Arla. The cooperative defines its responsibilities in a Code of Conduct, and Arlagården is the standard within the Code that applies to dairy farms.
In their marketing strategy, Arla Foods promotes guardianship of nature and the environment. Sustainable dairy farming, animal welfare and strong environmental standards are underscored in the Arlagården programme. With all farmers conforming to Arlagården, the cooperative has a sound, creditable marketing strategy behind all of the products produced and sold in the marketplace.
Arlagården is also used as a means of communicating with customers and consumers, to inform them about how animals are kept and how milk is produced on the farm.
Arla’s aim is to process the highest quality raw milk as it comes off the farm and Arla farmers must farm to the highest standards of animal welfare and supply milk of the best quality. Arlagården promotes these objectives.
Arlagården® (a registered trademark) is the farm assurance programme at Arla. It applies to all 12,000 farmer members in the seven countries in which Arla buys milk: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.
Arlagården was first introduced back in 2007 to promote the supply of high quality raw milk and to protect and develop Arla’s reputation for supplying top quality dairy products.
The programme is now running in all countries, where all Arla farmers produce milk to the same standards, and are inspected and assessed in the same way.
Arlagården is updated regularly, to meet the needs of Arla’s customers and consumers and to take into account any changes in requirements and procedures, which are relevant to farmers. The latest version of Arlagården came into force in January 2017.
The Arlagården programme reinforces Arla’s reputation for supplying high quality milk in home and export markets. Customers and consumers have the assurance that the milk has been produced to the same high standards.
Arlagården plays a significant role in supporting Arla’s responsible sourcing principles and contributes to their farmer-owned marque.
The marque, launched in Europe in August 2015, provides consumers with the assurance that Arla’s dairy products are from a responsible farmer-owned business and are produced with the highest objectives for animal welfare and environmental standards throughout its supply chain.
In each country, Arla works closely with Government and existing quality monitoring bodies.
For example, in the UK, Arla farmers supply milk under the national Red Tractor Dairy Farm Assurance Scheme. The scheme sets the standards relating to quality, traceability, hygiene and animal welfare. It enables British dairy farmers to demonstrate that their standards of husbandry and welfare meet, and exceed, the nationally agreed levels of best agricultural practice.
In the UK, Arla and Red Tractor worked together during the development of Arlagården in 2015. Arla farmers in the UK are assessed to the Red Tractor standards, plus a further sixteen standards which are specific to Arlagården.
The most significant of the additional Arlagården standards relates to the use of antibiotics. Arlagården puts strong emphasis on ensuring that farmers work closely with their veterinarian to ensure that the use of antibiotics is limited. Arlagården requires farmers to use antibiotics only for curing or alleviating disease and illness rather than for routine, preventive purposes.
Independent inspectors are employed to monitor standards. Accredited auditors inspect the farms of Arla’s 2,700 UK farmers on a regular basis to ensure that they are fully compliant with the requirements of the scheme.
Quality policy for farms
The purpose of Arlagården is to implement Arla Foods quality policy on dairy farms. The quality policy is based on four major themes.
a) Milk composition
Arlagården aims to ensure that milk has the ideal composition to provide finished products that meet the needs and tastes of consumers. The milk must have a natural composition of fats, proteins, minerals and other essential nutrients. It must also have a clean, fresh taste.
b) Food safety
Arlagården stresses food safety. Milk from the farms must not contain undesirable substances, and farms must ensure good hygiene practices in order to avoid the risk of contamination of products or causing illnesses with consumers.
c) Animal welfare
Arlagården strives to meet the basic physiological and behavioural needs of cows and young stock to ensure their health and welfare. The animals must be healthy and must be kept in a suitable environment and be well looked after by the farmer and stockmen.
d) Environmental considerations
Arlagården promotes environmentally friendly farming activities that respect nature. Farms must safeguard the surrounding environment and landscape. They must make best use of nutrients produced on the farm and use only the minimum amount of chemicals, based on soil analysis and crop requirements.
By developing and implementing Arlagården, the company guarantees that the milk, like any other raw material, is produced in a responsible manner and is of the highest quality, to meet the demands of the modern-day consumer.
In the Arlagården programme, farms are assessed on a wide range of criteria. These include: hygiene and food safety, housing, plant and equipment, feedstuffs and water, stocksmanship, contingency procedures, and medicines and antibiotics procedures.
Herd health plan
An integral part of the scheme is a herd health plan, which is a detailed plan of healthcare and protocols designed to prevent infections. Also included are protocols for routine foot care, examination and trimming, and the actions to be taken if and when a cow becomes lame.
A mastitis action plan is required and used to prevent and control mastitis in the herd. The plan includes methods for detection and treatment of mastitis, as well as protocols for dealing with clinical cases, and procedures for drying off at the end of lactation.
The plan includes a recording system to monitor herd health and animal welfare. The herd health plan must be reviewed annually together with the farm veterinarian.
To be able to cope when things go wrong, Arlagården recommends the formulation of a plan that describes the steps to be taken when any of the following occurs: inadequate cooling of the milk, residues of antimicrobials and veterinary medicinal products which contaminate the milk, power outages, contamination of animal feed or water, disease outbreaks in animals and humans, or damage caused by fire, flood or storms.
It is the member’s responsibility to contact both the Local Authority and Arla in the event of any food safety or serious animal health issue.
Content of Arlagården
The Arlagården programme, available online and as a handbook, is systematically divided by subject matter and contains an overall descriptions of:
- Regulatory requirements – These are the most significant regulatory requirements, applicable to all members as food producers, as a matter of law. It is the member’s responsibility to comply with the law at all times. The farmer is responsible for the milk that is delivered to Arla Foods.
- Dairy industry requirements – These are the requirements that the industry and Arla Foods have adopted following discussion within the company.
- Recommendations – These are the recommendations that Arla Foods encourages its farmers to follow.
Each subject contains a review of applicable requirements, which are complemented with an instruction for their implementation.
All the requirements described in Arlagården sustain the pillars of Arla Foods Quality Policy and allow Arla Foods to collect the milk from farms at the lowest possible cost.
After each section there is a list of the documentation needed in order to verify compliance with the requirements. Documentation and recordkeeping are an important part of Arlagården. Records, in most instances, must be kept for three years. Producers must include invoices and delivery notes. Records must be available for inspection during an Arlagården audit.