Tag Archives: dairy

Do you like cheese? You can thank the Indus Valley Civilization for it

The Indus Valley Civilization was the earliest known producer of dairy and dairy products, according to new research.

Image credits Anthony Arnaud.

The lands that make up modern-day Pakistan and India have been producing dairy for almost five thousand years now, according to researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga. The team explains that dairy has been produced and consumed by the people of the Indus Valley Civilization from as far back as 2500 BCE.

Original cheese

“We found that dairy was an integral part of their diet at a site that dates to about 2500 BCE,” says Chakraborty, who is conducting his post-doctoral research with Heather Miller, an anthropology professor at UTM.

The Indus Valley Civilizations, also known as the Harappans, built one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. Much of the foundations of their success have been lost to time — for example, we don’t have a great idea of how they managed to feed so many people. The study goes some way towards helping us understand the Harappan diet.

According to the findings, dairy was an important part of their diet. It helped fill hungry bellies at home, and likely greased the wheels of commerce.

Chakraborty used a technique called stable isotope analysis to examine food residue from shards of ancient pottery recovered in the area. The analysis reveals that dairy wasn’t only present in diets at the time, but it was in fact quite common (as judging from the available pottery). Out of 59 shards he analyzed, Chakraborty found 21 with traces of dairy fats.

“This [consumption of dairy] would have allowed the accumulation of a surplus of animal protein, without affecting the number of animals in your herd. The question becomes the role of dairy. Why is it so important in this ancient settlement? It is something that could be exchanged between settlements and regions. It is an opportunity for different economic specializations to develop,” he explains.

The analysis was possible because pottery is porous and absorbs some of the food cooked or stored inside during its lifetime. Chakraborty looked for fats (lipids) because they don’t dissolve in water, which makes them more resistant through time.

Chakraborty worked with Professor Greg Slater of McMaster University to analyze these compounds. Their origin can be determined based on the ratio of carbon isotopes they contain. Based on the chemical composition of these fats, they were also able to determine what food the animals who produced them ate.

The paper “Compound specific isotope analysis of lipid residues provides the earliest direct evidence of dairy product processing in South Asia” has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The dairy industry today is much cleaner and more efficient than 60 years ago

Producing dairy today is cleaner than it was 50 years ago, a study finds.

Image credits Ulrike Leone.

Each liter of California milk requires less land, water, and releases fewer emissions than in 1964 to produce, reports a new study from the University of California, Davis. The study takes into account inputs as producing feed for the animals, the animals themselves, as well as the machinery and transportation needed to produce milk.

California is the top dairy-producing state, and milk production is the third-largest agricultural industry in the US.

Udder progress

“We compared 1964 through 2014 and found a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases to produce the same quantity and quality of milk,” said senior author Ermias Kebreab, professor and Sesnon Endowed Chair in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. “The magnitude of change is surprising.”

A life cycle environmental assessment of California cows, from the time they’re born until they leave the farm, suggests that modern agricultural advancements really do help slash emissions and the environmental footprint of our food. The study included an analysis of inputs such as the feed, machinery, and transportation required to produce milk. The figures were then compared to their equivalents from 1964.

The largest cut to methane emissions seen in the study came from a decline in enteric methane — basically, cow belches. Reductions in emissions from manure were also recorded, but they were less dramatic than enteric ones.

“Reductions in enteric methane intensity (i.e., methane emissions per gallon of milk) are primarily a result of better genetics and breeding and better nutrition for the animals,” said Kebreab.

Overall, water use in the industry overall dropped by 88% compared to 1964 levels, the team explains, primarily through more efficient water use in feed crops and the use of by-products such as almond hulls for feed. Water use in housing and milking also dropped by 55%. Land use per liter of milk has also decreased, mostly through the introduction of better crops and agricultural practices.

While per liter efficiency has definitely increased, total greenhouse gas emissions from cows in California has increased, as more animals are being reared today. The team notes, though, that a cow in the 1960s could produce about 4,850 kilograms of milk per year, while one today can produce over 10,000 kg annually.

“There is a lot of discussion about how cows have a huge environmental footprint, but no one is talking about how the dairy industry has changed,” said Kebreab. “Dairy farmers are doing a lot to help reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.”

On the one hand, I definitely find the results encouraging, and I applaud the farmers that are doing their part to clean up the industry. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much they can clean. In the context of climate change, the most effective choice is simply to not breed any more cows. But I do love cheese, and I’m quite a fan of meat, so I secretly hope that we’ll be able to still put these on the table and safeguard the health of ecosystems around the world. In a previous study, Kebreab found that feeding dairy cows a small amount of Asparagopsis armata seaweed along with their feed, reduced methane emissions by up to 60% — so maybe there is still hope.

The paper “Greenhouse gas, water, and land footprint per unit of production of the California dairy industry over 50 years” has been published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

America’s largest milk producer filed for bankruptcy. Are plant-based alternatives to blame?

Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, has been around for almost a century. Now, after 94 years, it’s filing for bankruptcy.

Image credits: Mehrshad Rajabi.

When a long-lasting company files for bankruptcy, it’s often due to bad management or internal issues. But the case of Dean Foods, a company with yearly revenues of $7.7 billion, might be a bit different.

The company has struggled more and more in recent years because Americans are drinking less cow milk; oftentimes, they are substituting it with plant-based alternatives like soy, almond, or coconut. This year (2019) has been particularly bad as the company’s sales went down by 7%, and profits went down 14%.

Americans’ per capita consumption milk has decreased by 26% since 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 1975, milk consumption per capita has tumbled more than 40%.

It’s not just Dean Foods that got hit. The entire milk market suffered. In 2018, milk sales went down by more than $1 billion in 2018, compared to the previous year.

At the same time, plant-based milk has surged. The global plant-based dairy market was estimated at a value of $11.9 billion as of 2017 and is slated to surpass $21 billion by 2024. So, it’s not just the US — throughout the entire developed world, plant milk is swooping in and quickly replacing “regular” milk as people are looking for ways to phase out animal protein from their diet. In the UK, 25% of adults say plant-based milk is their first option.

Money-wise, plant-based milk is more expensive than regular milk — around two times more expensive in general — but given the overall low cost of milk, it’s a price more and more people can afford.

Modern research is also partially to blame for the decline in milk consumption. Several studies have dented the traditional healthy halo once held by milk, and a recent long-term study actually found that milk can increase the risk of bone fractures and mortality. The high saturated fat content of dairy can raise levels of bad cholesterol and while moderate consumption of dairy can still have a positive impact on healthy diets, people are starting to drop it in favor of plant-based alternatives.

The plant milk market has become quite diverse, with soy, almond, oat, rice, coconut, and cashew being just some of the many alternatives you can find on the shelves and at shops. Soy milk stands out as the healthiest options. It packs as much protein as cow’s milk, without any of the saturated fats. Almond, the most popular dairy alternative, has less protein but is still an overall healthy option.

It’s not just health that’s significant — the environmental and humanitarian aspects are also noteworthy. Milk (and dairy in general) produces substantial greenhouse gas emissions. It requires intensive land use and large quantities of water. Plant-based alternatives produce drastically fewer emissions, they require much smaller land areas, and consume less water than dairy milk.

In addition, most milk production cows are kept in questionable conditions (to put it lightly) and to the dairy industry, male calves are considered surplus — they are either shot after birth or sold to the meat industry. The cheapest option in most cases is to simply shoot the calf — which understandably, many people don’t want to support.

For all these reasons, plant-based milk is starting to take away from the dairy industry. Dean Foods’ failure may or may not be a result of that trend. The fact that Walmart, one of their biggest clients, dropped their services to replace them with their own dairy factory certainly didn’t help. Dean has been hemorrhaging executives as well as cash and their approach to the current situation has been criticized by some.

Dean Foods going bankrupt might have nothing to do with plant-based milk, but this is a cautionary tale to the entire industry: plant milk is here, and it’s here to stay. The market needs to adapt.

Doctors petition FDA to add breast cancer warning on cheese

In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) are requesting the FDA to label cheese in accordance to studies which found that it raises the risk of several types of cancer — including breast cancer.

“Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk,” the label would read.

The world “cheese” is derived from a Latin word “caseus” which means to ferment. Cheesemaking began at least 8,000 years ago around the time when sheep were first domesticated, as a way to keep dairy edible for longer periods of time. Today, the world has access to hundreds of types of cheese, and we just can’t seem to get enough of it. But while it’s undoubtedly tasty, cheese can have some unwanted health effects..

The nutritional value of cheese varies widely, but the vast majority of cheese is rich in saturated fats, which are a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases and conditions. While they also contain healthy protein and calcium, the fat content is so high that many national health organizations recommend minimizing its consumption and eliminating it from snacks.

However, in recent times, the consumption of cheese has been associated with even more health issues.

“High-fat dairy products, such as cheese, are associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, according to a 2017 study funded by the National Cancer Institute,” reads the petition published by the PCRM, a a non-profit research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “Researchers examined the dietary intakes of 1,941 women diagnosed with breast cancer and compared them with the diets of women without breast cancer. The results showed that those who consumed the most American, cheddar, and cream cheeses had a 53 percent increased risk for breast cancer. Components in dairy such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and other growth hormones may be among the reasons for the increased risk for cancer.”

A complex issue

Studies analyzing the link between cheese and cancer have not always yielded clear results. Virtually all studies of this type are observational — they observe a connection, not causation. Based on a systematic review of the epidemiologic literature, there is a probable association between milk intake and lower risk of colorectal cancer, a probable association between diets high in calcium and increased risk of prostate cancer, and limited evidence of an association between milk intake and lower risk of bladder cancer. For other types of cancer, the risks were less clear.

Given the huge variability of cheese and other dairy products out there, it’s difficult to draw a definite line. A recent study found that cheese can raise breast cancer risk, but that yogurt might reduce it. The petition references another study which concluded that among women previously diagnosed with breast cancer, consumption of high-fat dairy products is associated with increased mortality risk.

However, a broad analysis of 9693 studies found major differences in how these studies are carried out. This particular study was essentially a review of previous meta-analyses — themselves studies of other studies — so this is probably the most comprehensive review of dairy-cancer associations out there. The study reports that two meta-analyses showed “increased risk of breast cancer with higher consumption of milk or cheese”, but that 8 meta-analyses showed “non-significant associations between ‘all-dairy products’” and the risk of breast cancer. This is a good depiction of how nutritional science is often unclear due to the sheer complexity of the involved parameters.

Nevertheless, while the evidence isn’t completely conclusive, physicians associated with the PCRM say it’s strong enough to justify labeling cheese — and they do bring some compelling evidence.

“New data from the Women’s Health Initiative show that a lower-fat, higher-carbohydrate diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and grains resulted in long-term health benefits. Compared with women who made no diet changes, the dietary intervention group had 15 percent lower long-term risk of breast cancer mortality, a 30 percent reduction in heart disease, and 13 percent lower risk of developing insulin-requiring diabetes. Possible mechanisms for these results include increased fiber intake, reductions in hormones associated with breast cancer, and improvements in LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, and glucose levels.”

They also provide an explanation for why sometimes, dairy seems to be associated with equal or even lower overall cancer risk.

“It should be noted that limited evidence suggests that dairy intake in general (that is, not specifically high-fat dairy products) is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.10 This likely is because health-conscious individuals tend to consume high amounts of dairy products due to their successful promotion as “health foods.” High-fat dairy products are much higher than low-fat dairy products in their concentrations of fat, saturated fat, and estrogenic hormones associated with cancer risk.”

Cheesy labels

In light of all this, the physicians argue, cheese should be labeled as a factor of cancer risk. Simply adding a pink ribbon on products is not enough, they conclude.

“To ensure that Americans understand the potential significant risks, and resulting long-term costs, of consuming dairy cheese products, the FDA should ensure that the notice above is prominently placed on product packaging and labeling for all dairy cheese products,” says the petition.

The FDA has not replied to the petition.

Cut down on dairy and sweets if you’re struggling with acne, study concludes

In addition to mental stress and unsound skin hygiene, poor dietary habits are associated with acne, a team of researchers reports. In particular, sweets and acne seem to go hand in hand.

Acne is a common skin condition which affects most people at some point in their life. It commonly manifests through spots and oily skin, but it can also cause pustules and severe pain. Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment, and it can be influenced by lifestyle.

Acne is estimated to affect one in 10 people globally, making it the eighth-most prevalent disease worldwide. It is particularly prevalent in teenagers and young adults, with some estimates reporting that it affects up to 40% of adult females. While it is not the most harmful of conditions, it can cause significant long-term discomfort, and its high prevalence makes it important to study.

The good news is that even without medical treatment, simple lifestyle changes can reduce acne incidence. A study presented at the 28th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in Madrid analyzed the exposure of different worsening factors to see which exacerbates acne the most. The study followed over 6,700 participants in six countries from North America, South America, and Europe. According to researchers, this is the first study of its type.

The results showed that the most significant dietary association was dairy consumption: 48.2% of individuals with acne consumed dairy products on a daily basis, compared to 38.8% who didn’t. Sweets such as pastries and chocolate also had a similar prevalence (37% vs 27.8%). Soda juices (35.6% vs 31%) were also significant factors. All in all, it seems that there is a significant association between sweets and acne.

Acne risk factors. Image credits: EADV.

Researchers also report an unexpected association: 11.9% of acne sufferers consume anabolic steroids, vs just 3.2% without acne. Consumers of whey proteins also have a higher incidence of acne (11% vs 7%). Exposure to pollution and stress were also more frequently observed in participants with acne compared to control participants. Professor Brigitte Dréno, lead author and an associate of Vichy Laboratories comments:

“Acne is one of the most common reasons why people with skin issues contact a dermatologist. Its severity and response to treatment may be influenced by internal and external factors, which we call the exposome. For the first time, this study allows us to identify the most important exposome factors relating to acne from patient questioning prior to any treatment prescription.”

This is still a preliminary study and was not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the study analyzed association without discussing causality — but the findings are still significant. Several previous studies have signaled a connection between sugar and acne. Sugar itself does not cause acne, but it can trigger hormonal fluctuations inside the body. Furthermore, sugar’s oxidative properties can provoke acne breakouts and can cause the body’s insulin levels to spike, which triggers a burst of inflammation throughout the body.

Lab-grown dairy hints at the future of food

Credit: Pixabay.

Lab-grown meat is getting a lot of attention along with plant-based meat substitutes. Technology is driving the industry toward providing alternatives to conventionally produced food products. Dairy proteins may be the next product produced in a lab, for use in fluid “milk” production and processed dairy products like yogurt and cheese, to name a few.

Winston Churchill predicted the rise of synthetic foods in 1931.

“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium. Synthetic food will, of course, also be used in the future.”

While it took longer than 50 years, his prediction is coming true with meat proteins and now dairy proteins.

What is synthetic dairy?

Perfect Day Inc., a California-based start-up, has recreated the proteins found in conventional cow’s milk without the use of animals. The company developed a form of genetically modified microflora that produces both whey and casein through a fermentation process.

The approach can be loosely compared to the use of brewer’s yeast to produce alcohol. Yeast is used in controlled environments to create fermentation byproducts and the two processes simply employ different yeasts for a different purpose and output.


Perfect Day has the technology to remake the small fraction of milk that is protein, arguably the most important component to produce other foods. The company suggests that its dairy protein is vegan and lactose-free, while providing the same high-quality nutrition as conventional dairy protein. This could have significant appeal for consumers.
Perfect Day says their product is the exact same as the protein found in cow’s milk. Conventional milk is approximately 3.3 per cent protein, of which 82 per is casein and 18 per cent is whey. The other main elements are water, fat and carbohydrates.

Tough to mimic full-fat milks

Milk produced by dairy cattle is a versatile ingredient used in various products worldwide. More than 70 per cent of milk sold from Canadian farms in 2019 is used for further processing, leaving the remainder to be consumed as fluid milk.

It may be difficult to produce full-fat milks that mimic the taste and texture of cow’s milk. Protein is just one component of fluid milk; milk fat is another, which would likely be the most difficult to mimic with plant-based alternatives. The structure of milk fat provides a specific taste and mouth feel when drinking milk, and this may be a tougher formulation challenge than creating proteins to be used in cheese or yogurt.

The early focus of Perfect Day’s communication was on fluid milk — the kind we drink —but the company has shifted its focus to processed products.

Perfect Day has partnered with food production powerhouse Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), among others, to move towards full-scale production. The company is one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers with more than 330 manufacturing facilities in almost 200 countries. ADM supplies a vast list of ingredients for both human and animal consumption; synthetic dairy protein may be a perfect addition to their offerings.

Products such as yogurt and cheese are different than fluid milk, and may be more suitable for using lab-grown casein and whey. The synthetic proteins could be used to replace dairy milk ingredients or to complement them.

In yogurt production, for example, protein is often added to improve texture. There are differing proportions of milk components in various processed products. This means that fermented casein and whey proteins could augment or replace conventional protein ingredients. This is easier to do in products with high-protein ingredients.

That said, the potential use of animal-free dairy protein goes far beyond traditional dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Hot dogs that contain milk powder and granola bars that contain modified milk ingredients are examples of the many foods that could use this alternative dairy protein.

Tackling malnutrition?

Perfect Day CEO Ryan Pandya said last year: “We began to look into how we can use our protein to prevent stunted growth and malnutrition in the developing world.” This suggests Perfect Day’s focus is on providing ingredients rather than producing milk.


The Canadian
per capita consumption of butter increased from 2.72 kilograms to 3.21 kilograms from 2007 to 2016. This increase in butter demand has led to an excess of milk protein in the marketplace in both Canada and the United States.Some products aren’t well-suited to this approach. Butter, for example, is made from milk fat and has almost no protein. We’ve long had a plant-based alternative to butter — margarine. But many consumers moved away from margarine and back to butter.

While it remains to be seen if these fermented proteins can be produced economically, their introduction into the marketplace could cause significant disruption to the dairy industry. The disruption would be due in part to switching some processed products away from conventional dairy proteins.

There would be additional disruption because of the change in relative demand for protein and other milk components. We would likely end up with more significant surpluses of proteins from both conventional dairy and synthetic production.

The future

Many issues need to be resolved before these products arrive in our supermarkets. The economics of production have to work. Products need to be reformulated to incorporate the fermented proteins with other ingredients to replace the milk components.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency currently describes milk as being produced by an animal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet made a policy statement on classifying synthetic milk proteins.

Milk in Canada is also subject to a supply management system that includes quota for production.


Read more: How the dairy lobby’s cash grab put Canada in Trump’s crosshairs


Will synthetic casein and whey be subject to the same system? The regulatory environment will require significant clarification, and any changes will be vigorously debated by various interests.

Some consumers will highly value the fact that animals are not required to produce these proteins, creating a vegan, lactose-free product. There will also be a perception that synthetic dairy proteins will have a smaller environmental footprint.

Other consumers will likely have concerns that the proteins are produced using a genetically modified yeast.

Despite these uncertainties, we will likely see synthetic dairy products on grocery shelves within a few years.

Michael von Massow, Associate Professor, Food Economics, University of Guelph and Mitchell Gingerich, Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics, University of Guelph

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Bog Butter.

Ireland and Scotland made bog butter for three and a half millennia, new study reports

Bog butter has graced the tables of ancient Ireland and Scotland for at least 3,500 years, a new study found.

Bog Butter.

Samples of bog butter recovered from Irish bogs.
Image credits Jessica Smyth et al., (2019), Scientific Reports.

New research comes to shed light on the ancient practice of making “bog butter”, a product that delighted (and/or nauseated) ancient denizens of today’s Ireland and Scotland. The study, led by researchers from the University College Dublin, analyzed the chemistry of butter recovered from several sites in Ireland to find that it was a remarkably long-lived tradition.

Butter O’Bogley

Bog butter is made, you won’t believe this, in bogs. Peat bogs, to be exact. It may sound like a particularly poor place to store your beloved butter, but the unique chemistry and microflora of these bogs are actually incredibly good at preventing spoilage — stashes of butter have been discovered still fresh after spending thousands of years in such bogs. However, that made the butter no less mysterious.

For example, we didn’t know whether this was proper butter. Previous analyses were able to conclude that the butter was surely obtained from animal products, but they couldn’t determine whether it was composed of milk fats or animal adipose tissue — i.e. if these were stashes of animal fat obtained from meat or butter churned from dairy products.

The team used radiocarbon dating and carbon isotope analysis to obtain conclusive evidence on the origin of this material, and find that the practice survived for at least 3,500 years in Ireland and Scotland.

Some 430 stashes of bog butter have been found and recorded to date, 274 of them in these two countries. They’re usually stored in some kind of wooden container — buckets, kegs, barrels, etc. — or animal bladders. The team says they were buried as a means of preservation, as previous research has shown that meat stored in peat bogs for two years had roughly the same bacteria and pathogen levels as meat stored in a modern freezer. Another possible explanation is that this was a kind of food processing — i.e. that people at the time actually wanted their food to taste of peat. To each his own.

The current study looked at stable carbon isotope ratios in the fatty acids of bog butter and compared that to a global database of animal fats in order to determine its origin. They report that 26 of the 32 samples they analyzed were definitely made from dairy, and a further three were very likely made from dairy. The other three samples yielded inconclusive results, they add. Radiocarbon dating showed that the samples date back to the Early Bronze Age, around 1700 BC.

You’re probably wondering what the butter tastes like — me too. We’re in luck, as this delicacy has been recreated in modern times. A team of researchers led by Benjamin Reade from the Nordic Food Lab presented several samples of bog butter at the 2012 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, for example. The butter was aged for three months underground (a second stash, not presented at the Symposium, has been aged for seven years) without going rancid. However, it wasn’t a smashing success, “causing disgust in some and enjoyment in others,” according to Reade.

“The fat absorbs a considerable amount of flavor from its surroundings, gaining flavor notes which were described primarily as ‘animal,’ or ‘gamey,’ ‘moss,’ ‘funky,’ ‘pungent,’ and ‘salami.’”

He adds that it might work in “strong and pungent dishes, in a similar manner to aged ghee.”

The paper “Four millennia of dairy surplus and deposition revealed through compound-specific stable isotope analysis and radiocarbon dating of Irish bog butters” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Cheese.

Novel approach to identifying flavor molecules poised to make fermented goods even more delicious

The Germans are coming for your cheese! They want to make it tastier!

Cheese.

Image credits Corinna Barbara.

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology, and the University of Hohenheim have developed a new technique for identifying flavor-bearing protein fragments in fermented foods such as cheese or yogurt. They hope that their findings will form a launchpad from which to upgrade the tastiness of a wide range of foodstuffs.

Cheesy business

Just like everything else, fermented foods draw a lot of their taste from volatile aromatic compounds. Unlike most other things, however, the flavor profile of items like cheese, yogurt, beer, or soy sauce also depends heavily on non-volatile substances (i.e. things you can’t smell). Some of the most important compounds that fall under this category are fragments of (originally-long) proteins broken down by bacteria during fermentation of milk or grains.

Still, there’s a lot of these fragments out there — over 1000 have been documented to impart flavor in fermented-milk products alone. Even worse, they take a whole lot of time and effort to discover. To work around the issue, a team led by Thomas Hofmann, head of the Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science at TUM, has developed a new method to discover these tasty bits.

The team combined existing methods of proteome (protein) research with methods of sensory research to quickly and efficiently identify the most flavorful protein fragments in a given sample. The team tested their procedure on two varieties of cream cheese — which had different degrees of bitterness. The goal was to identify exactly which protein fragments gave the cheeses their bitter off-taste.

“We coined the term ‘sensoproteomics’ for this type of procedure,” said Andreas Dunkel from the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology, lead researcher for the study.

An initial review of the literature on the subject told the team that there would be roughly 1,600 different protein fragments that could create a bitter off-taste in dairy products. Chromatography-coupled mass spectrometer analysis in tandem with computer simulations narrowed the search down to 340 potential candidates. Comparative spectrometric, sensory, and quantitative analyses further reduced the number of fragments responsible for the bitter cheese flavor to 17.

“The sensoproteomics approach we have developed will, in the future, contribute to the rapid and efficient identification of flavor-giving protein fragments in a wide range of foods using high-throughput methods—a significant help in optimizing the taste of products,” says Prof. Hofmann.

The paper “A New Approach for the Identification of Taste-Active Peptides in Fermented Foods” has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cow meat

The five largest meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than ExxonMobil

Cow meat

Credit: Pixabay.

Oil and gas companies have recently been attracting a lot of negative attention from the public — as they should — for the impact their activities have on the climate. However, meat and dairy companies tend to fly under the radar, despite the fact that their contribution to global warming is highly significant. Although these establishments aren’t usually associated with global warming emissions, five of the biggest meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP, a new study says.

The report, titled “Emissions impossible – How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet”, is authored by researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the NGO Grain.

According to the report, which looked at the world’s 35 largest beef, pork, poultry, and dairy companies that keep some record of their GHG emissions, just four companies provide complete emission estimates — these are NH Foods (Japan), Nestlé (Switzerland), FrieslandCampina (the Netherlands) and Danone (France)

Emissions resulting from meat and dairy emissions are not uniformly distributed around the world but rather originate from various hotspots that coincide with the major exporting regions: the US and Canada, the European Union, Brazil and Argentina, and Australia and New Zealand. Although they account for 15% of the world’s population, together, these regions account for 43% of the total global emissions from meat and dairy production.

In line with the Paris Agreement — a pact that was signed by more than 190 countries — we need to cut down GHG emissions in order to keep global warming at no more than 1.5℃ (relative to Industrial Age levels). Meeting this goal is an extremely challenging endeavor that requires concentrated global action. But while transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a no-brainer, other sectors — which can be just as taxing to the environment — are out of the limelight.

According to the new report, JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra — which are the five biggest meat and dairy companies in the world — emit as many GHGs are ExxonMobile or Shell.

“If energy, transport, and other sectors successfully cut emissions in line with the Paris objectives while the meat and dairy companies continue to increase production, the livestock sector will account for a larger and larger portion of the world’s available GHG emissions budget of 13 gigatons,” the report warns.

If we continue to produce meat and dairy per business-as-usual, the livestock sector could eat up over 80% of this available carbon budget, according to the new report.

“For decades, the mass production of meat and dairy has been enabled by farmers getting paid below the cost of production, workers being exploited and taxpayers footing the bill for air, land and water pollution caused by big meat and dairy,” Shefali Sharma, director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy (IATP), commenting that there’s no such thing as ‘cheap’ meat.

“It’s time we realised over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse. This report shows what a key role they play in creating climate change as well,” she added.

So, it looks like not only do we need to quench our thirst for oil but we also need to satiate our appetite for meats and dairy. With a growing populace, both in numbers and wealth, cutting down on meat will be a highly challenging mission — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, in a press release. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Poore and colleagues are the authors of a study published this year in Science, which notes that livestock provide only 18% of all the calories we consume, but take up 83% of all farmland. Growing meat and dairy also take up a lot of water; every pound of beef requires about 8000 liters of water, whereas an equivalent quantity of potatoes consumes over a thousand times less.

But, of course, a largely vegan population in any part of the world is totally unrealistic at this point, especially in developed countries. What each of us can do, however, is to consume these sorts of products in a moderate fashion. If you eat meat and dairy every day, switching to every other day instead will instantly reduce your impact on the environment by 50%.

Sourcing meat and dairy locally is also important. A lot of emissions related to meat and dairy consumption is due to transportation, which is often thousands of miles from the production site. In the European Union, the European Commission is looking to restructure EU food systems towards more sustainable production — and short food supply chains are part of the agenda. In 2015, 15% of farmers in the EU sold half of their products through these short food supply chains, but the Commission hopes to increase the figure.

 

We owe the shape of our jaws, at least in part, to our ancestors’ love of cheese

The advent of farming, with its ‘softer’ foods compared to previous hunter-gatherer menus, had a subtle but noticeable effect on the shape of human skulls, anthropologists from the University of California, Davis report.

Skull jaw.

Image credits Eliane Meyer.

Wild foods generally tend to be rougher than the stuff we’re used to nowadays. In other words, our hunter-forager ancestors had to put a lot more effort into chewing dinner than we do — they had to chew more and more often before dinner got in their bellies. Previous research has shown that there is a connection between skull shape and the advent of agriculture, but they haven’t gone as far as quantifying exactly how these changes developed over time.

So a team from UC Davis, made up of postdoc David Katz, statistician Mark Grote and associate anthropology professor Tim Weaver looked at 559 skulls and 534 lower jaws from over two dozen pre-industrial populations to see exactly how diet altered the shape and size of human skull bones as we transitioned to agriculture.

“The main differences between forager and farmer skulls are where we would expect to find them, and change in ways we might expect them to, if chewing demands decreased in farming groups,” said Katz, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Overall, the team found subtle but noticeable changes in the skulls of communities that grew and consumed dairy, cereals, or both. The greatest effects were associated with groups whose diets included a large percentage of dairy and dairy products, which suggests a direct link between the softness of the food and morphological changes.

However, diet wasn’t the most important factor dictating skull characteristics. For example, the team reports that morphological differences between males and females, or those between individuals eating the same diet but came from different populations had a more pronounced effect.

It’s interesting to see how our lifestyles play a direct role in our evolutionary path. The effects are less pronounced than “neutral evolutionary processes” such as genetic drift, mutation, and gene flow structured by population history and migrations. But even diet’s more muted contribution to the Homo sapiens we all know and love today shows that we’ve been meddling with our evolution for a long time now — whether we want to or not.

With the advent of genetic engineering, we’re bound to have an even more pronounced influence in the future. Time will only tell what that influence will be.

The paper “Changes in human skull morphology across the agricultural transition are consistent with softer diets in preindustrial farming groups” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Milk Bottles.

What is pasteurization, and how does it keep milk fresh for 9 months at a time?

Milk Bottles.

Image credits Pasita Wanseng.

Modern agriculture has a lot of perks. Today, food is plentiful on a scale humans in pre-industrial societies could barely dream of (although we’re still pretty bad at getting it to those who need it the most), consumers have a huge range of options and enjoy very high food security.

But it also comes with its drawbacks — among them, longer distances between farms and consumers. With it came the need to process foodstuffs so they don’t spoil, rot and generally become undesirable by the time they reach our tables. We’ve toyed around with a host of such methods throughout history, and their success (or failure) have shaped whole cultures.

There are simply too many to fit into a single article. So for starters, we’ll talk about one of the most commercially-important methods of preservation in modern industries. A technique that turned milk and dairy from one of the most dangerous and deadly class of foodstuffs in the world to something you can keep fresh and safe for almost a whole year. Today, we’ll be answering the question of:

What is pasteurization

In short, pasteurization is a process that relies on heat treatment of foodstuffs to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in foodstuffs. The process was established by Louis Pasteur, a French chemist who tried to enjoy his 1864 vacation in the Arbois region but find it impossible to do so — because local wines were often excessively sour. Armed with his scientific prowess and a Frenchman’s burning love for wine, Louis would spend that holiday developing a method to keep young wines from spoiling.

Kermit with wine.

Louis Pasteur, on vacation in 1864, faced with the prospect of yet another bottle of sour wine. Probably.
Image credits Alexa_Fotos / Pixabay.

His work showed that heating the drink even under the boiling point of water (50–60 °C / 122–140 °F) would kill off most germs that caused spoilage (and thus keep the wines from souring) while maintaining flavor and aroma. Still, the process remained in use only for wine and beer, and would be applied to other foodstuffs, such as milk, many years after its development. For example, milk in 1870’s US was routinely laced with substances to mask spoilage, and pasteurization was taken up only after the government stepped in to regulate what could and couldn’t end up in milk.

However, it’s important to note that pasteurization doesn’t sterilize (kill all the germs in) foodstuffs, but just culls their numbers enough to make them unlikely to cause spoilage or disease in humans — assuming the product is stored as indicated and is consumed before its expiration date. Sterilization of food isn’t commonly seen because it often affects the taste and quality of the food.

How it came about

The closest process to what we know as “pasteurization” today is, surprisingly enough, the oldest on the list. The Chinese seem to have developed a heat-treatment method to keep wine from spoiling as early as 1117 AD, and it later found its way to Japan, where a Buddist monk describes it in 1568 in his diary, known today as Tamonin-nikki. These methods sound, in principle, very much like modern pasteurization, only they were in use hundreds of years before Pasteur’s vacation.

Although deprived of ancestral Chinese brewing knowledge, Louis didn’t have to start from scratch. It’s likely that he based his works on a previous food preservation method known as appertisation — or as “canning.”

Jam jars.

Deliciously effective.
Image credits Lebensmittelfotos.

This process is named after French cook, brewer, and confectioner Nicolas Appert. In the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the French government needed to ensure that its soldiers were well fed on very distant fronts — so they needed a new way to keep food from spoiling. To this end, they offered a 12,000 francs reward to any who could solve their problem, and Appret was just the man to do it. He had been experimenting with placing food in glass jars sealed with cork and wax, then dumping them in boiling water.

Just like pasteurization, appertisation uses heat-treatment to kill off any flora that could cause food to spoil, and the sealed container prevents any new germs from moving back in. But unlike pasteurization, appertisation uses high temperatures so the food is also processed/cooked, and as such, changes the appearance and taste of foods treated this way. But, after several autumns’ experience of helping my grandma stock up on jars of food for winter using appertisation, I can attest that the results are very tasty — just not very useful for wine.

Today, appertisation is used mostly for canning. And although Appert used it to preserve milk, appertisation just isn’t very good for that — too much heat and casein, a protein in milk, will make the liquid curdle into cheese. So unless you want to make cheese (we totally have a tutorial on that by the way,) appertisation isn’t the way to go. Pasteurization, however, works great for milk, alcoholic beverages, juices, and a whole range of items you need to be preserved but not over-done.

To find out why, let’s take a look at how it’s done.

How pasteurization happens

To start off, I need to point out that for something to be officially “pasteurized” it has to follow some very strict standards (set by national food agencies so they can vary a bit from place to place) — for example, in Canada milk intended for consumption has to be heated to 72 °C (162 °F) for at least 1 second, while in the UK it has to be treated at 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15 seconds. These standards also differ from product to product: you can’t use the same technique to pasteurize milk or whole cream, for example.

Past your eyes.

Couldn’t resist.
Image via Imgur.

As I’ve said, pasteurization aims to preserve food without cooking/boiling it. In the past, this was mainly done by simply not heating the food in question past the temperature you wanted. That, however, has the drawback that it makes the process much longer. More recent methods rely on much higher temperature (even above boiling point) but much shorter treatment periods to avoid ”cooking” the items. The most used types of pasteurization used today are high-temperature, short-time (HTST or “flash pasteurisation”), ultra-heat-treated (UHT), and extended shelf life (ESL)

HTST treatment is performed by running milk either over heated metal plates or through heated metal pipes, where it’s kept at 72 °C (161 °F) for 15 seconds. It’s a pretty intermediate approach, using moderate intensity heat applied for a moderate amount of time. This is your run of the mill pasteurization method and lends itself well to pretty much anything. When you see a carton of milk labeled simply as “pasteurized,” you’re usually seeing HTST-treated milk.

Ultra-heat-treatment on the other hand subjects the milk to temperatures of around 140 °C (284 °F), but only for four seconds. The process involves spraying the milk through a nozzle in into high-temperature, pressurized steam. After it reaches that maximum temperature, the milk is rapidly cooled down in a vacuum chamber and packaged in an airtight, sterile container. UHT is a very deadly process for bacteria, and the resulting product is actually sterilized not just pasteurized. As a result, UHT products like milk and juice in the right packing can safely be stored even without refrigeration for up to 9 months at a time. Products treated this way are generally labeled as “UHT” or “ultra-pasteurized”, although this can vary from place to place.

Finally, extended shelf life milk uses lower temperatures that UHT but mixes in a microbial filtration step to the process. European countries (with the exception of Germany) don’t require manufacturers to label ESL milk as being ultra-heated, so you can often find it labeled as “fresh”. Still, ESL and traditionally pasteurized milk are processed differently and have different properties — especially important when you’ll start making your own cheese.

Does it work?

Oh, boy does it. Before pasteurization, milk that didn’t come fresh out of the udder was probably one of the most dangerous foodstuffs available as it’s an awesome environment for germs. To put things into perspective, some 65,000 people died of tuberculosis contracted from days-old milk in England and Wales alone between 1912 and 1937, before pasteurization became widely-used. And it wasn’t just tuberculosis — you risked brucellosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, Q-fever, and a host of other nasty bacteria with every sip of milk you drank. Even today, improperly processed raw milk causes nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other food out there, the CDC says.

But a 15-seconds pasteurization process will leave only one in a million to ten million germs alive (between 6.7 and 6.9 mean log10 reductions) — meaning a glass of pasteurized milk is probably one of the safest food items we can enjoy. A simple process that makes a world of difference.

So if you happen to produce a lot of milk at home, make sure to pasteurize it, just to stay on the safe side. FDA guidelines allow for home pasteurization at 63 °C (145 °F) for 30 minutes.

Dairy has been greatly underestimated and is an “excellent” protein source for children, study finds

Dairy holds a controversial position in our modern diets. It used to be a go-to recommendation for kids, but nowadays, many recommend avoiding giving dairy to children — or even adults. A new study takes a pretty clear position in that debate, naming dairy an excellent protein source using a new calculation method.

Dairy might be better for us than we preivously thought. Image via Pixabay.

Researchers from the University of Illinois have been using pigs as a model for the protein uptake of children. This isn’t a new approach, it’s something that was suggested by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 2011.

“Plant proteins are the primary sources of amino acids in many parts of the world, whereas animal proteins are the primary sources in other parts of the world. However, the composition and digestibility of these types of proteins differ,” says Dr. Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at U of I and principal investigator of this research.

Researchers in Stein’s lab calculated the protein score for eight different sources of protein, derived both from plants and animals. The protein scores are a reflection of the amount of digestible amino acids in a food with a “reference protein,” a theoretical protein which contains all the fully digestible amino acids in the proportions required for human nutrition at a particular stage of life. They calculated how digestible the proteins are through this standard method which has been used for 20 years. However, researchers argue, this method is not complete and has significant flaws, failing to take significant factors into consideration.

“The total tract digestibility fails to take into account nitrogen excretion in the hindgut,” Stein says. “The PDCAAS also assumes that all amino acids in a foodstuff have the same digestibility as crude protein, but in reality, amino acid digestibilities differ.”

So they also used a new calculation, which they called digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS). They calculated DIAAS on the same eight different proteins — whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, skimmed milk powder, pea protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, soy flour, and whole-grain wheat. They found that all dairy proteins met Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) standards as “excellent/high” quality, while soy protein isolate and soy flour qualified as “good” sources of protein. With this approach, dairy scored much better than it did with traditional methods. This would mean that dairy has been greatly underestimated as a protein source for children, though researchers concede that this method also has its limitations.

“The protein sources used in this experiment were fed raw, and foods processed as they typically are for human consumption might well have different protein values.”

Still, Stein and his team believe this is a significant step forward compared to previous approaches. Although lots of time and effort is being invested into understanding how the human body deals with nutrients, we still know surprisingly little about these interactions. Of course, more research is needed to validate this method, but small shifts like this go a long way towards expanding our understanding — and enabling us to eat healthier.

“The results of this pilot study indicate that dairy proteins may be an even higher quality source of protein compared to vegetable-based protein sources than previously thought,” said Dr. Greg Miller, chief science officer at NDC. “While using DIAAS is a newer concept and more research will be needed, one thing rings true — milk proteins are high quality and milk as a beverage has protein plus eight other essential nutrients, which is especially important when it comes to kids, because they need quality nutrition to help support their growth and development.”

The paper, “Values for digestible indispensable amino acid scores (DIAAS) for some dairy and plant proteins may better describe protein quality than values calculated using the concept for protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS)” was published in the February 2017 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

What Wikipedia can’t tell you about making cheese

Cheese-making is a long standing tradition around the world, with almost every culture developing their own specific types (except the Chinese and Native Americans). But the basic steps of the process remain the same no matter where you go. It’s been made for a long time now and the process is pretty simple — simple enough, in fact, that you can make it in your own home.

Image credits Jill Wellington / Pixabay.

One article isn’t enough to cover all the ways of making cheese out there, so we’ll talk about each of the steps in general then take a look at how to make the tastiest cheese in existence.

1. Getting milk

Finding good quality milk will probably be the most problematic step in the process. No matter what animal it comes from, whole, unprocessed raw milk is the best base for making virtually any type of cheese. But it can be hard to get your hands on it — raw milk commercialization is banned in several countries around the world. If you live in the US, you can check your state’s position on the issue here.

In a pinch, off the shelf milk works too, but avoid ultra heat treated (UHT) or homogenized milk if you can. The heat treatment UHT milk goes though alters the protein casein, and the milk doesn’t hold together well enough to make cheese. If you plan to give UHT a try, read this forum first for a few tips.

In the case of homogenization, fats are smashed into the casein, causing them to partially bind. The molecular thrashing about involved in the process also alters some of the casein. Overall, it won’t be able to bind as well, making for a thinner curd — still, it’s much better than UHT. If using homogenized milk, skim through the forum here for tips and tricks.

Lastly, keep in mind that processed milk can lose a lot of its calcium or fat content taken up in other products. This will negatively impact the quality of your cheese and may even ruin your efforts altogether. A few tablespoons of calcium salt (calcium chloride, CaCl2) should be enough to replenish the calcium.

Adding buttermilk, cream, or similar products to the milk can help replenish fat content if done right. There is no universal recipe for success here, however. Since dairy and dairy product quality varies a lot from place to place, ask local cheesemakers and experiment on this point to find out what quantities and products work best.

Small cheeseries usually purchase their milk from dairies which don’t pasteurize. This intact bacterial content can supply enough lactic acid (a curdling agent) on its own by processing lactose (sugars) if the milk is left to sit long enough. Depending on which cheese is being produced, this ripening milk is sometimes heated.

If using pasteurized milk, a culture of bacteria must be supplied to start producing lactic acid. Yogurt or sour milk can be used to supply these bacteria if you can’t find any starter cultures.

2. Curdling

Image credits Joel Kramer / Flickr.

If you give it enough time, lactic acid levels will rise enough to start tying the proteins on its own. But if you wait up to that point, you won’t have a tasty cheese. With a few exceptions in fact, it will probably taste quite horribly.

So rennet is added to the mix before this point. Traditionally, rennet was harvested from the stomachs of calves and lambs. One of its main components is chymosin, an enzyme which act on the casein in milk and curdles it — biologically, it curdles mother’s milk in the digestive tract of calves to allow better absorption of nutrients.

Today however rennet is mainly produced by genetically engineered bacteria colonies. There are also a lot of veggie alternatives, so take a look online or in local shops to see what your options are. Depending on the type of rennet and manufacturer, you’ll probably have to process it in some way before addition — usually, this is as simple as mixing with a cup of warm water.

The rennet speeds up the milk’s separation into curd (the solid bit, lumps of phosphoprotein and fat) and whey (the liquid part of milk, that contains lactose, minerals, vitamins, and traces of fat.) The layer of curd flows to the top where it’s cut into chunks — bigger ones for soft cheeses, and smaller for hard cheeses. After cutting, the mix is sometimes heated to make it fully separate faster.

3. Pressing the cheese

The whey is drained after separation but the chunks of curd still have a lot of moisture in them. Depending on which kind of cheese you’re trying to make a certain amount of it has to be drained. Some cheeses are good as they are at this point but for others, the pieces of curd have to be cut, heated, or filtered to dry further. To make cheddar for example, the curd has to be “cheddared“, or chopped into fine pieces. For Parmesan, you have to cheddar and then cook the curd.

Regardless of how you process the curd, if you want to age it it has to find its way into a mold. Wrapped in cheesecloth, it’s pressed into the wheel-of-cheese shape in the mold.

By this point, the curd looks like cheese, has the texture and humidity of cheese — it’s basically cheese. But the taste isn’t yet quite right. Now it’s time for the finishing touches.

4. Aging the cheese

Italian cheeses left to age.
Image credits SplitShire / Pexels.

This step involves salting the cheese in brine, inoculating it with mold, or wrapping it in a material to be aged. The more it’s aged, the sharper, more pungent the flavor. Cheddar for example can be aged for one to two months (mild) up to several years (extra sharp). Fresh and soft cheeses don’t need to be aged.

And now, for the grand finale!

Making telemea

Try saying “telehmeah”. Ok, try again. Well that’s close enough.

You may not know it yet, but telemea is the best cheese in…everywhere. It’s a soft-ish, creamy white traditional Romanian cheese with a relatively high water content. Think of feta cheese, only much better.

Ibănești telemea, an EU-recognized PGI traditional cheese.
Image via bio-romania.

And lucky you, you’re about to learn all about how to make it with the tools lying about in your kitchen and a trip to the store. Possibly an old t-shirt too, if you can’t find any cheesecloth.

[panel style=”panel-info” title=”You’ll need:” footer=””]

  • 8 liters of milk (best to use raw or unhomogenized milk).
  • Rennet — you’ll have to follow producer’s guidelines to determine the quantity needed.
  • 60 grams of homemade yogurt or sour milk.
  • Brine made with water and uniodized salt.

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You can theoretically use any type of milk for this, sans the UHT kind (for homogenized milk you’ll need to add calcium salts, see point 1). Now:

  1. Slowly heat the milk up to 80°C (176°F) — as a rule of thumb heat it but keep it from boiling. Then let it cool down to 31-36°C (87-96°F).
  2. Now we need to make the milk acidic to promote curdling. Add sour milk or homemade yogurt to the mix. If you don’t have any, 2 teaspoons of vinegar will do the trick. Stir thoroughly and let set for 5-10 minutes keeping the above temperature constant.
  3. Add the rennet. If you need to mix it with water, make sure to use still water — the chlorine in tap water will inhibit the reaction.
  4. Keep the 31-36°C temperature constant for around 45 minutes to one hour. You’ll know the milk is ready when you can run a knife all the way to the bottom of the pot with a clean cut. If not, just give it more time until this happens.
  5. Cut the curd in strips 2-3 cm (0.7-1.2in) in length. Cut again perpendicular on these lines, keeping the proportion, to form squares.
  6. Cover the base and walls of a strainer with cloth, and leave it in the sink or over a collecting pot. Move the curdled milk to the strainer (use a smaller vessel like a teapot or bowl).

When the curd dries up a bit, tie the cloth in a bag and hang it up somewhere. Gravity will strain the rest of the whey from the curd. When it stops dripping, put the bag in a mold (any shape works really,) put a plate and something heavy over it, and let is rest overnight.

You’ll be delighted to know that you now have a solid piece of cash. It’s actually “caș”, but it sounds the same and why ruin a nice thing. It’s very tasty as it is but you’ll need to salt it to have true telemea. To make the brine, pour and stir the salt in water until the crystals won’t dissolve any more — what the chemists call a saturated solution. Around 150-200 grams (5.3-7oz) of salt in one liter of water should be enough.

Put the piece of cash in the brine (that’s one sentence I didn’t think I’ll have to write today). It will tend to float about half-way out of the water, so sprinkle salt on this side and let it sit. You’ll have to turn it and salt the cheese at least once a day, and 48 hours of salting will get you a moderately-salted telemea — but you can let it sit in brine for as long as you want. Even a few months. Just remember to submerge it in water to desalt before eating it. Salting will also harden the cheese and improve the texture.

Keep the telemea in a fridge in a closed container for at least 24 hours to cure it, and then enjoy!

This is how one French power plant produces electricity using cheese

The town of Albertville in southeastern France has begun using cheese to generate electricity. Their power plant, build in the Savoie region, uses a byproduct of the local Beaufort cheese manufacturies as the base for its biogas power generation system.

Ahhh, cheese. Truly, a tragically under-appreciated food. Is there any meal it cannot make wholesome with its creamy bliss? Is there anything that cheese cannot do? The answer to the last one is most likely “yes” but the French seem set on turning it into a definite “no.” Not content with enjoying cheese only with their crackers and wine, the people of Albertville in France have now found a way to include dairy in their power grid.

Beaufort cheese.
Image via telegraph

The dairy plant, opened in October last year, uses the skimmed whey left over from the process of making Beaufort cheese. Mixing it with cultures of bacteria, the whey is left to ferment, producing a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide — in essence, biogas. The gas is then fed through an engine that heats water to 90 degrees Celsius, and the steam used to generate electricity.

“Whey is our fuel,” said François Decker of Valbio, the company that designed and built the cheesy station.

“It’s quite simply the same as the ingredient in natural yogurt.”

The plant will produce about 2.8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, enough electricity to supply a community of 1,500 people, Mr Decker told Le Parisien newspaper.

This isn’t Valbio’s first cheese-to-power station, but it is one of the largest. The company built its first prototype plant 10 years ago to be used by a cheese-making abbey where monks have kept this trade since the 12th century. About 20 other small-scale plants have been built in France, other European countries and Canada. More units are planned in Australia, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay.

Cream, the other by-product of Beaufort cheese-making is also reused for ricotta and serac cheese, butter, and protein powder.

Is Dairy Addiction Real? Here’s what science says

Dairy Addiction is one idea toted not only as a notion, but as a fact by a significant number of vegans, especially ones that do not link to any reliable source (if any at all) to provide any evidence to the conclusion they have reached. So I decided that I will take it upon myself to find out whether or not the scientific literature agrees with this.

First things first though, WHY do these people believe that Dairy products are addictive? Well, YUM Universe, a known vegetarian blog, sums it up like this:

The answer is casomorphins—protein fragments, derived from the digestion of the milk protein, Casein. The distinguishing characteristic of casomorphins is that they have an opioid effect. ”

Casomorphins, or in the case of milk, Beta-Casomorphins, are indeed a form of opioid found in milk. And yes, Opioids are addictive, so that must mean milk is addictive and we can just close this case, right? Well… not quite.

One study of milks effects on rats published in 1981 called Opioid Effects of Beta-Casomorphines mentioned that they found “none of the peptides displayed opioid activity.” This is not the only study either, as another study published in 1994 which focused entirely on this idea of the addictive qualities of milk named “An Assessment of the Addiction Potential of the Opioid Associated with Milk” concluded with the line “Ingestion of milk products containing β-casomorphin is not likely to become the focus of an addiction.”

This is not even the last of it, as there is even a case report of a woman in Germany who drank 4-5 liters of milk a day. The report wanted to know if the woman’s consumption of such high quantities of milk was pathological. It concluded that based on the fact that the woman did not have any withdrawal symptoms in the absence of milk that Milk drinking in this patient did not have the characteristic physiological, behavioral and cognitive phenomena associated with dependence and nondependence producing substances.”

Opioid containing foods go far beyond casomorphins as well, as there is Gluten Exorphin in wheat, Soymorphin in soy, and even Rubiscolin found in spinach. I see no argument that spinach and tofu is addictive by anybodies standards ever.

Now am I saying that dairy products are NOT addictive? Of course not, they certainly are in a sense, but this is not due to casomorphins. Milk is a high fat food, and as any nutritionist knows, foods high in fat, sugar, and salt can be addictive the same way drugs are. This was actually a survival mechanism in the past, as since food scarcity was an issue, it was better to consume foods that were higher in essential nutrients needed for our survival, such as fatty, sweet, and salty foods.

But this is not a milk-only issue. You can easily state this for any other high-fat, sweet, or salty foods, including avocados, fried lettuce, mangoes, nuts, juices, vinegar, and anything you add salt to. Literally ANY food that is sweet, fatty, or salty has the potential to be addicting, which is why these three food types are such an issue to anybody suffering from Binge Eating Disorder, otherwise known as a Food Addiction.

Tons of food can be addictive, but I can safely say that casomorphin, or food opioids at all, do not play any role in that.