Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Milk & permeate

Milk has for a long time had permeate added to it. Is that good or bad? I mean, you probably don’t like the idea that anything is added to milk, except maybe a nutrient like calcium, folate or vitamin D. I was asked by a milk manufacturer to make a comment to the media about their “permeate-free” milk.

Permeate is “milk water”
So it was time to do some searching and making of telephone calls. Put simply, permeate is a watery liquid left over after making cheese and yogurt. When making cheese, the protein and the fat is extracted from milk, leaving water, lactose (the sugar in milk), minerals and vitamin. What to do with this “leftover”? Throwing it away doesn’t seem right.

The food laws in Australia stipulate that milk has a minimum protein content (3.0% protein). Now, if you have a batch of milk with more that 3.0% protein then you can add permeate to the milk to dilute it down to be just over the minimum level of protein. This is all legal and certainly doesn’t greatly influence the nutrient density of milk.

Closer to the farm
Despite this, some folk believe that adding permeate to milk is not natural and is just a way for milk companies to save money. The companies did their surveys and found that the public prefer their milk to be as close as possible to what it is as it leaves the farm.

So, some milk companies in Australia are declaring on their labels that their milk is permeate-free. That will mean that there will be some seasonal variation in the composition of milk. It will always meet the minimal standards, but the protein content may vary from 3.0 – 3.5%. That won’t make any difference to the taste. Well, it didn’t to me because, without my knowledge my own milk became permeate-free in January without a whisper from the milk company. Didn’t notice a thing.

What does it all mean?
Not a lot from a taste or nutritional point of view. Not adding permeate will make milk processing simpler and you will experience some natural seasonal variation.

See my full story on dietitian Emma Stirling’s blog.

See what another dietitian, Cath Saxelby has to say and Dairy Australia’s point of view. The Sydney Morning Herald has a more hard-nosed article.

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