Grass-fed FAQs

Refer to the below FAQs for full information on our Grass-Fed statements.

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There is no international standard that defines the term ‘Grass-fed’.

For Fonterra, ‘Grass-fed’ means that on average, our cows in New Zealand graze on pasture over 350 days of a year and that 96% of our cows’ diet consists of grass.

The terms ‘grass’ and ‘pasture’ may be used interchangeably.  96% is an average calculated on an ‘as consumed’ basis. Average is measured over the previous three seasons' data and subject to minor variation.  Grass includes: grass, grass silage, hay and forage crops (legumes and brassicas).

Our Fonterra New Zealand cows spend on average 97% of their non-milking time outside on pasture, that’s over 350 days in a year. Average is measured over the previous three seasons' data and subject to minor variation. Calculation excludes milking times because this only accounts for being off-pasture for on average up to 3 hours per day.

This data is reported at a Fonterra NZ milk pool level and is reviewed annually.

We identified the top 15 dairy exporting countries (including New Zealand), based on their annual dairy product export volumes in 2017. Of these top 15 dairy exporting countries, only Ireland operates a similar pasture-based model to New Zealand.  It is assumed that other countries with non-pasture grazed farming systems will not compete with New Zealand or Ireland in terms of time on pasture.

Based on Irish data presented in O’Brien et al. 2018, dairy cows in Ireland have access to pasture, on average, 255 days per year.  In New Zealand, data from Fonterra 2017-18 dairy season Farm Dairy Records show that our Fonterra New Zealand cows spend, on average, 97% of their non-milking time outside on pasture which is more than 350 days of a year. 

The Fonterra Grass and Pasture Fed Standard define the minimum requirements for the consumption of grass, and time spent on pasture, for Fonterra dairy cows on an average, annual basis. The minimum requirements include:

  • Grass comprises at least 80% of the diet calculated on a dry matter basis (on our calculations, this is equivalent to at least 92% as-consumed basis). Grass includes: grass, grass silage, hay and forage crops (legumes and brassicas); and
  • The cows spend at least 90% of their time on pasture for grazing (excluding milking time).

Our Fonterra Grass & Pasture-Fed Standard requires all Fonterra New Zealand suppliers to provide data on feed and farm practices, and we assess these standards against a sample size of at least 80% of all Fonterra’s New Zealand farms.

This data is reviewed annually and updated to reflect the seasonal variation.

The Fonterra Grass and Pasture Fed Standard is independently certified by AsureQuality.  Please refer to the Fonterra Grass and Pasture-Fed Standard summary for more information.

AsureQuality provides food assurance and biosecurity services to the food and primary production sectors worldwide. Wholly owned by the New Zealand Government, AsureQuality has built a solid reputation for delivering expert services and value to the entire food supply chain in over 40 countries worldwide.

AsureQuality is accredited by the Joint Accreditation Scheme for Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) as a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), enabling the independent 3rd party certification of customer systems and/or products to a very wide range of certification standards, including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, FSSC, FSSC-Q, FMS, BRC, SQF, Global GAP, and Organics, as well as various other schemes.

Milk is a rich natural food source of bio-available calcium and contributes many other essential nutrients including high-quality protein, vitamin A, riboflavin (B2), and vitamin B12. 

Milk from grass-fed cows contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid found in milk fat.  Although evidence continues to indicate potential nutrition benefits of CLA, Fonterra makes no claim as to any actual substantiated nutrition benefits of CLA, or the nutrition benefit from CLA achieved when grass-fed milk is consumed. 

Beta-carotene is found in pasture-rich diets, such as the grass that New Zealand cows are fed.  New Zealand butter is known for its natural golden colour, and it reflects the higher beta-carotene content in New Zealand milk and the genetics of our cows. The potential nutrition benefits of Beta-Carotene intake may only be achieved when grass-fed milk is consumed as part of an overall nutritious diet.

Important Disclaimer:

NZMP (and the Fonterra Group) makes no representations or warranties in respect of the information contained on the NZMP website or in this document, including representations or warranties (express or implied) concerning fitness for purpose or appropriateness (including whether such information can be used in compliance with any applicable jurisdiction) in relation to the use in connection with the marketing, promotion and sale of any third party products. Without limiting the foregoing, any use of, or reliance on, the information contained on the NZMP website or in this document is not the responsibility of NZMP or the Fonterra Group.

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