Thursday, 17 May 2012

Milk - not what it was

Would you believe that I can remember when there used to be a layer of cream on the top of a bottle of milk, and in winter the birds use to peck holes in the foil bottle top to get at the cream? The foil was either a silver top or gold top depending on the cream content, many bottlers unashamedly skimmed cream from the top to make more profit.
In those days the milkman would deliver every morning and place the bottles on the doorstep. The milkman has been much maligned over the ages and many music hall comedians joked that many of the children on their milk run look just like them. Australia even produced an advert that suggested that the retired milkman shown in the advert still visited his conquests. This was part of a ‘milk – legendary stuff’ comedy series.

It is rare to see raw milk nowadays as the bacteria content is usually too high for public safety. Most countries now insist on milk being sterilised or pasteurised (heat treated) making it safe for children and people in poor health. However, certified disease free cows are still used to produce unprocessed milk for cheeses and other high end dairy products. Milk has been pasteurised since the early 1900’s and to my knowledge had little effect on the taste or the cream on the top. However a more negative view is given by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD:
“Heat alters milk's amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50%; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%; the Wulzen or anti-stiffness factor is totally destroyed. Pasteurization alters milk's mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable. This, and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized societies has been linked with diabetes.

Last but not least, pasteurization destroys all the enzymes in milk— in fact, the test for successful pasteurization is absence of enzymes. These enzymes help the body assimilate all bodybuilding factors, including calcium. That is why those who drink pasteurized milk may suffer, nevertheless, from osteoporosis. Lipase in raw milk helps the body digest and utilize butterfat. After pasteurization, chemicals may be added to suppress odour and restore taste. Synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 is added — the former is toxic and has been linked to heart disease while the latter is difficult to absorb.”

I regret I do not have references to the research on which this is based and cannot authenticate the information given. It would explain why the market in pro-biotics is growing so quickly.

The next big change milk in processing was the use of homogenisation. This was originally introduced in the early 1900’s but was heavily resisted for many years because the cream content was effectively hidden. There seems to be no advantage to the consumer except that the bottle does not needs to be shaken before use. The milk actually tastes blander and just the texture is creamy. Milk is homogenised by forcing it through very narrow tubes at high pressure. This is often done in conjunction with pasteurisation and the process itself produces heat for a final pasteurisation. This process seems to favour the milk processor as it reduces bad taste and odours caused by pasteurisation and gives the milk a longer shelf life. A longer shelf life enables the processor to ship the milk a lot further increasing the available market and profit. The fat molecules are damaged in the process and there are many people who think homogenising milk is dangerous and causes many allergies, illnesses and so on. Just imagine what happens to the milk when you are cooking with it. I doubt that you can get non-homogenised milk easily and the benefits of a milk drink outweigh a bottle of beer.

One of the current high tech methods of treating milk is with micro-filters. Using these filters the processor can divide milk into its component parts, milk fat, protein, milk sugar (lactose), water, vitamins and minerals (including calcium) and filter out the harmful bacteria like e-coli from the watery part of the milk, the permeate. The permeate consists of lactose, vitamins, minerals and water and is considered fit for human consumption. The fat and protein are usually pasteurised and homogenised ready for creating the processors milk products and cheese and butter. Separating the permeate at this stage avoids the waste products at the cheese and butter processing factories. The standard for packaged whole milk requires that it contain at least 32 g/kg (3.2%) of fat and 30 g/kg (3.0%) of protein. Because milk varies with the season and farm, the exact milk standard ratios can be made with the permeate, protein and fat. Some processors replace the animal fat with omega3 plant oils.
Like it or not, milk is now tailor made for the convenience market and if you want the real stuff you will have to pay handsomely for it.

Where do I stand on this? I have a degree of lactose intolerance and a problem with fats and so I buy long-life, low fat, lactose free milk ( the lactose is converted to other sugars). In other words the milk I drink bears little resemblance to the original.

Where do you get 'normal' milk in Australia?
Here’s a list of organic, family-owned or independent dairies; the milk is stocked in markets and shops near you. 

1 comment:

  1. Quote from the Canberra Times:

    Pura and Dairy Farmers are announcing today that from Sunday permeate will not be added to their milk products. A spokeswoman said this would simplify milk processing and provide milk as close as possible to the natural product.

    She said that by not using permeate, the natural seasonal variations in protein would provide the purest quality milk.

    Permeate-free labels would identify milk to which permeate had not been added.

    Read more: