Milk and much, much more

Date posted: 28 August 2016

Hello there, City Croppers! We hope you’ve been well and if you haven’t visited the Crop lately are planning a visit soon!

We’ve talked lots on this blog about the science around lucerne and the plants themselves, but we’ve also touched briefly on the dairy industry (the sun provides energy for the plants, which are eaten by cows, which produce milk).

But it’s not just milk that lucerne fuels– let’s take a look at the diverse range of products that result from lucerne-eating cows, how they’re produced, as well as some of the dairy alternatives on the market.

Milk

The most obvious lucerne-fuelled product, milk is produced in things called mammary glands (in the cow’s udder) and the pale liquid is the main source of nutrition for the cow’s offspring. Cows’ milk is also packed with important nutrients for humans, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, protein, potassium and more. It’s no wonder many of us pour it on our cereal, add it to our smoothies and simply enjoy it as a cool drink!

Cheese

Cheese has got to be one of the tastiest foods around, and there are so many different types! Who hasn’t enjoyed a pizza with melted cheese on top, a sandwich containing sliced cheese, or crackers with cheese on top? Cheeses are produced in a multitude of ways, but ultimately they tend to result from milk that has been transformed into curds (solid masses) after some specially selected bacteria and enzymes have been added.

Yogurt

Similar to cheese, yogurt is made by adding live bacterial cultures (good bacteria) to milk. This good bacteria (probiotics) can have a range of health benefits, including promoting intestinal health by restoring the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut.

Cream

Cream is added to a range of foods (e.g. sauces, dressings, soups), but you probably best know it as a key ingredient to desserts and treats such as scones with jam (yum!). Cream is produced by skimming the higher butterfat layer from the top of milk before it's processed (homogenised).

Butter

Similarly, butter is created by separating cream from milk. The cream is churned until it’s thickened, and then salt is added, before it’s spread on pieces of bread from Ingle Farm to Innamincka and everywhere in between.

Ice Cream

There are a ridiculous amount of recipes to make our favourite creamy treat, but it typically involves freezing milk (and adding other products such as stabilisers, flavours and emulsifiers to improve taste and texture) while whipping and blending it to add air and smoothness.

Dairy alternatives

Some choose not to consume dairy products because of allergies or unfavourable reactions, while others (such as vegans, who don’t consume any animal products) don't because of ethical reasons. Thankfully there are a range of alternatives for these folks, with an abundance of milk alternatives (e.g. soy, almond or coconut) and “mock” products increasingly hitting the market.

Now that you know all the types of products that cows help produce, doesn’t it give you a much greater appreciation of the little green plants they munch on all day? Next time you’re at the Crop or sitting down for breakfast lunch or tea, think about all the foods and drinks you and your family consume that are fuelled by the wonderful little flowering pea we call lucerne!