Whether it reminds you of coming home from school accompanied by a plate of home-made warm cookies, or as a perfect partner to a slice of pizza, there’s no doubt there is something unique about the flavor of milk.
The nineties campaign Got Milk?, which was created for the California Milk Processor Board, left an ever-lasting impression with their images of milk mustaches, and has recently made a comeback during the Covid-19 pandemic where milk sales have risen. But what is it that makes milk taste good?
Breaking it down simply, when the body digests the protein in milk called casein, a fragment called casomorphin sends a signal to the brain which induces a feeling of comfort. Makes sense really; nothing soothes a baby quicker or better than milk - we are programmed to associate it with feel-good vibes.
The best tasting cow’s milk comes from animals eating a healthy diet. Strong feed can result in flavors transmitting through to the milk, so they’re best avoided where the milk is for human consumption. Bacteria can lead to an unclean taste, so fresh barns and sanitized equipment - with chemical residues removed - play a key part. A high somatic cell count can also lead to watered-down milk production.
Many factors come into play in terms of making milk taste great such as the heredity and breed of the cow, the stage of lactation, and number of lactations from the udder. Seasonal changes also affect milk flavor, as the feed changes between pasture, silage, and dry hay. Farmers can encourage a signature taste in their milk by feeding their cows on one particular diet or keeping a single breed.
Milk proteins can be broken down if the cow’s drinking water has too much iron in it, and a lack of vitamin E in the diet can result in metallic flavors. But what can you do if you want to drink milk for the health benefits but don’t like the taste? Worry not, for there are endless ideas.
Try adding mashed up raw fruit and blend into a milkshake, warm in a pan and add some cocoa powder for a hug in a mug, use milk to make porridge oats, poach a piece of fish in milk or mix with butter, flour and cheese to make a sauce to pour over macaroni, cauliflower, broccoli or mashed potatoes.
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