Freshness is one of the most important sensory gauges of milk quality. When we talk about providing a fresh product, dairy farmers focus on things like high solids and low bacteria and somatic cell counts. Those factors all play an important role in providing fresh dairy products to the consumer, but it doesn't end there.
When discussing fluid milk, a recent study conducted at Cornell University found the greatest offense to consumers' taste buds isn't the amount of time between production and consumption.
Rather, it's light exposure.
The study found consumers definitively preferred samples of both slightly aged milk and fresh milk that had not been exposed to light to the flavor of fresh milk that had been exposed to four hours of LED light.
Based on these results, light exposure through packaging, which fluid milk encounters when sitting in the dairy case, is actually more detrimental to milk flavor than the changes caused by milk aging for two weeks.
Researchers explained this preference was likely linked to chemical changes in milk caused when light interacts with photosensitive components of the milk.
Getting the highest quality product to the consumer is the task of everyone in the dairy business. Cornell researchers suggest we may be sabotaging our product by allowing light to reach it, and they recommend taking a hard look at packaging options to address this flavor enemy.
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2016
June 27, 2016