health

A2, proteins and sugars: An explainer on how your dairy products are made.

Dairy Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Dairy Australia

Before you grab the milk out of your work fridge and pour it into your tea, do you ever think about what’s in it?

When you whack a bit of cream on a delicious piece of chocolate cake, do you consider how the cream was made?

What about when you grate some cheese onto your spaghetti bolognese? Do you ever think to yourself, ‘I wonder how this was processed?’

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the consumption of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are linked to multiple health benefits, such as the reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

But after the milk comes out of the cow on the farm, where does it go? How are dairy products in Australia produced?

Ever wondered what's happened in between the farm and the supermarket? Image: Getty.

Well, funnily enough, it all starts with milk.

According to Dairy Australia, once milk arrives at the processor, three things generally happen: it needs to be pasteurised (by law), and in most cases is homogenised and standardised. “For safety reasons, milk sold for human consumption is required to be pasteurised in Australia,” Dairy Australia says.

In fact, all dairy products in Australia need to be pasteurised before anything else can be done to them.

However, it doesn’t affect the nutrients such as calcium and protein that are naturally found in milk. Pasteurisation just makes it safer for us humans to drink (it also extends the shelf life of milk, but that’s an added bonus.) According to the experts over at Dairy Australia, pasteurisation is a lot simpler than it sounds. A number of techniques exist but typically you heat the milk to a precise 72°C for 15 seconds (no shorter, no longer) and then you cool it down immediately. “As well as destroying harmful bacteria and micro-organisms, pasteurisation also extends the shelf life,” according to the You Ask, We Answer website.

is dairy bad for you?
Image: Getty.
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After the milk has been pasteurised it generally goes through the standardisation process. Basically, standardisation means making all milk the same. Dairy Australia says standardisation is often done because the levels of fat and protein in fresh milk fluctuate throughout the year depending on a number of factors."

These factors can be as broad as the type of feed the dairy cow was eating, and whether or not dairy cows have been affected by drought or their stage of lactation.

“In order to produce a consistent product which matches consumer expectations, the dairy processors will separate off fat/cream (and less often protein) from the incoming milk and then blend it back in to create the necessary ratios for a given milk product."

So what does all this mean?

Something really simple, surprisingly. Your normal dairy milk, think dark blue or light blue lid, has nothing added to it that isn’t already a natural part of milk. No added sugar and no added preservatives. Of course, if you’re buying chocolate milk, for example, it’s a different story.

As for the difference between A2 and A1 milk? These are both proteins found in cows' milk, and according to Dairy Australia, most milk contains a mixture of both these proteins, which are part of the casein protein family.

“Approximately 60 per cent of beta casein in milk is classed as A2, and 40 per cent is classed as A1.” Dairy Australia say.

However, some cows only produce A2, which goes on to be used in the A2 only milk.

So which ones are healthier?

There have been studies published that say that A2 is better than regular milk, however according to Dairy Australia “there is no convincing evidence that these milks are a healthier option than regular milk which contains both A1 and A2 protein - it comes down to personal preference."

So next time you pour some milk in your cup of tea or over your cereal, you know that you’re drinking products that have just the right amount of everything in them, and have only been made to make it better for you.

You can find out more about how milk is made at Dairy Australia's dairy.com.au website.

This content was brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Dairy Australia. 

Dairy Australia

What matters to you, matters to us too. We know people have questions about dairy and we’re here to help. Dairy Australia aims to cut the confusion by providing the public with reliable information about dairy products and practices. Visit You Ask, We Answer to have your dairy questions answered, by real experts.

Dairy Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to help dairy farmers achieve a sustainable future.

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