The popularity of milk in northwestern European countries and North America is undisputable. Elsewhere in the world, milk tends to be rare and relatively expensive.
Researchers determined that certain animals were domesticated around 9000 B C and by 5000 B C milk was obtained and consumed.
Its pure white colour, pleasant natural sweetness and creamy smooth texture provide both nutrition and satisfaction to millions of people daily.
Milk is versatile. It can be consumed as is, converted to cheese, clotted cream, kaymak (a solidified concentrated rolled cream), yoghurt, clotted cream, concentrated and sweetened and just concentrated. Indian cooks reduce it to 25 per cent of its original volume to produce rabadi, and occasionally to grainy consistency for khoya which is used for barfi kuliya, kulfi or ice cream.
Many Far Eastern and African peoples are lactose intolerant. Their bodies cannot convert lactose to glucose after they have been weaned. North American dairies have now developed milk for lactose intolerant individuals. North Europeans and North Americans consume considerable amounts of milk in many forms. In these parts pastures are abundant and precipitation high enough to produce grass most of the year, whereas in sunny and dry countries fodder a or grass become rare and expensive commodities.
Irish rank first in the world for per capita milk consumption with 162 kg, whereas Americans 6th with approximately 100 Kg. Canadians are somewhere in between but consumption is decreasing due to constant demographic changes.
The most abundant supply of milk comes from cows, although the milk of many other domesticated animals such as goats, sheep, water buffalo, camel, donkey and reindeer are also used for either consumption or conversion.
There are literally hundreds of cow breeds used for milk production. Hereford, Jersey, Guernsey, Simmental, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Angus, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Canadienne, Dutch Belted, Kerry, Milking Devon, Milking Shorthorn, Norwegian Red, Friesian and Holstein are only a few employed by North American dairy farmers.
Cows are milked twice daily; in rare instances three or four times. Generally a cow will produce 5400 – 7650 Kg of milk pending on feed and breed. The record is a Holstein with 14,600 Kg. Different breeds produce milk with varying degrees of fat content. Jersey and Guernsey cows produce less but richer milk, whereas Holsteins yield much more but leaner milk.
Some American dairy farmers use rbGH, a growth hormone that induces milk production by 4 – 5 kg daily. In Canada, the Health and Welfare department has yet to approve the use of rbGH.
Cows are fed a mixture of corn silage, alfalfa, wheat hay, barley, corn, beet pulp, cotton seed, almond hulls, molasses and vitamins in many North American farms, and graze where and when possible.
The quality and consumption of grass influences both the flavour and colour of the milk. Cows will eat a mixture of grass, dandelions and herbs where available to balance their diet naturally. Most cows are given silage and grain. Grain fed cow’s milk contains omega3 fat, beneficial for humans.
Cow’s milk on the average contains 4.8 % fat, Shortly after milking, the product is cooled down to 2C, tested for harmful bacteria and antibiotics and kept refrigerated to be transported to dairies for processing.
Upon delivery, the milk is checked again for fat content, pathogenic bacteria count and antibiotics. Then the fat content is reduced to a standard 3.25 % for whole milk, or 1 or 2 % Butter fat for skimmed and non-fat.
Following this process, it is homogenised and subsequently pasteurised, packaged and shipped. UHT (ultra heat treated) milk has a longer shelf life and preferred in both restaurants and hotels for practical reasons.
Milk contains lactose, calcium, minerals, soluble proteins and fat.
Dairies also make yoghurt the taste of which depends on the feed cows have been given and on the culture the dairy uses. In the Middle East yoghurt is much firmer and acid than in both Europe and North America. In India and Sri Lanka, yoghurt is produced from the milk of water buffalo, which contains a higher percentage of fat than cow’s milk. It is richer, smoother and more satisfying.
Buttermilk and ricotta cheese are by-products of processing and cheese manufacture.
Milk is an extremely versatile, nourishing, delicate, perishable and delicately textured food that provides immense gustatory pleasure to millions daily, as well as livelihoods for thousands of dairy farmers.
Fat , protein, lactose water content of different milks
% protein % fat % lactose % water
HUMAN 1.5 4.0 7.0 87.0
COW 3.5 3.5 4.5 87.5
GOAT 3.6 4.1 4.1 86.5
SHEEP 5.8 6.7 4.8 82.0
WATERBUFFALO3.8 7.5 4.8 83.0
CAMEL 3.7 4.0 5.1 86.0
REINDEER 10.3 22.0 2.5 63.0
On the average, a cow’s life span is 10 years those on rbGH live five years.
For organic milk, cows must feed on organic grass for a minimum of one years, before certification.
Kosher milk comes from cows that are given a diet of approved (rabbinical) ingredients and are kept in immaculately clean stalls.
Pasteurisation prolongs shelf life, but also deprives milk of its original intense flavour.
Cheeses made from pasteurised milk possess less intense flavours than those from natural milk.
In North America cream cheese manufacturers are forced to use pasteurised milk. Hard cheese manufacturers are encouraged to use pasteurised milk. Cheeses that are made of natural milk taste better and highly recommended. Some European cheeses are made from un-pasteurised milk i.e. Parmiggiano Reggiano. If you compare the authentic product to its imitations made elsewhere you will notice a significant difference.