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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Research on Environmental, Economic, and Social Sustainability in Dairy Farming: A Systematic Mapping of Current Literature

Segerkvist, Katarina Arvidsson; Hansson, Helena; Sonesson, Ulf; Gunnarsson, Stefan


Dairy cows are able to convert fibrous materials, such as grass, roughage, and by-products from the food industry, into milk and meat, which justifies their role in food production. However, modern dairy farming is associated with major sustainability challenges, including greenhouse gas emissions. In order to develop sustainable future production, it is important to implement existing knowledge and fill knowledge gaps. The aim of this study was to systematically map the scientific literature on environmental, economic, and social sustainability at farm level in dairy farming. Literature published between January 2000 and March 2020 and with the geographical focus on Europe, North America, and Australia-New Zealand was included. In total, the literature search resulted in 169 hits, but after removing duplicates and papers outside the study scope only 35 papers remained. Of these, only 11 dealt with the three dimensions of sustainability, and several of these only mentioned one or two of the dimensions or set them in relation to that/those actually studied. Overall, the selected literature did not clearly explain how aspects of sustainability are interlinked, so possible negative or positive interactions between different aspects of sustainability dimensions remain unidentified.


dairy cow; animal welfare; ecology; life cycle assessment; sustainable production

Published in

2020, Volume: 12, number: 14, article number: 5502
Publisher: MDPI