Modern milks increasingly cater to health concerns
Picking up milk at the store used to come down to a handful of choices: Whole, low-fat or skim? These days, our cups runneth over with options...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Milk and milk termsHere's a look at the growing selection in the milk section of your local supermarket.
Whole milk: 3.35 percent fat, contains 150 calories and 8 grams of fat per
2 percent reduced-fat milk: 2 percent fat, contains 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per 8-fluid -ounce serving.
1 percent low-fat milk: 1 percent fat, contains 100 calories and 2.5 grams
of fat per 8-fluid-ounce serving.
Fat-free/skim/nonfat milk: 0 percent fat, contains 80 calories and 0 grams
of fat per serving.
Organic milk: Milk from cows not treated with antibiotics or hormones on farms
certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Raw milk: Milk that has not been pasteurized, homogenized or otherwise processed.
Sale of raw milk is legal in Washington state, though health officials advise caution
due to the potential presence of pathogenic bacteria that could cause severe illness, especially in young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
Acidophilus milk: Milk with a beneficial culture, Lactobacillus acidophilus, added
to ease digestion.
Soy milk: Beverage made from soybeans that contains a similar amount of protein
as milk and often is fortified with calcium, vitamins A and D and other nutrients.
Pasteurization: A process by which pathogenic (illness-causing) bacteria within
milk is eliminated.
Ultrapasteurization: Milk heated to a higher temperature than pasteurized milk
to stay fresher longer. This process is often used for cream and eggnog.
Homogenization: A process which breaks up and disperses milk fat throughout the
milk for a smooth, uniform texture. Most whole milk is homogenized to prevent the cream from rising to the top. It also results in a softer curd in the stomach that aids digestion.
Fortified milk: Milk supplemented with enzymes, vitamins and other nutrients during processing. Vitamins A and D traditionally have been added to milk since they are often lost during processing. Other fortifying ingredients added to some milk include DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that boosts brain, eye and cardiovascular health, plant sterols, which help reduce cholesterol, cellulose fiber to boost overall fiber intake, "probiotics"like Lactobacillus acidophilus that restore healthy bacteria in the digestive system killed by antibiotics (some companies like Lifeway have dubbed probiotics "bugs") and "prebiotics" like fructo oligo saccharides, which encourage healthy bacteria to multiply.
rbST: Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin, a growth hormone that increases milk production in dairy cows. Many dairies, including the 600-plus producers who collaborate as the Darigold cooperative, no longer treat cows with rbST in response to health concerns. However, the Food and Drug Administration has found no health risks from drinking milk from rbST treated cows.
Source: National Dairy Council, Washington State Department of Agriculture,
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Picking up milk at the store used to come down to a handful of choices: Whole, low-fat or skim?
These days, our cups runneth over with options.
That half-gallon of 2 percent now shares the dairy case with milk infused with probiotics (to add healthy bacteria that aid digestion), prebiotics (to feed those bacteria), plant sterols (to lower cholesterol) and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid (to promote brain health and development).
Just as popular are milks whose main selling point is their lack of human intervention: milk without added hormones or antibiotics, organic milk, unhomogenized milk, raw milk. For the super particular, there's milk from grass-fed cattle or goats, milk from a certain breed (like Jersey) and even milk milked from a specific herd.
"There's been a multiplicity of new offerings coming out that make the dairy case seem even more complicated because there are so many more choices," said Blair Thompson, spokesman for the Washington Dairy Products Commission.
The folks who study why we buy what we buy, including Harry Balzer, vice president of the market research firm NPD Group, put it like this: The vast majority of Americans already drink milk of some type regularly (mostly 2 percent here in the Evergreen state). Thus, the way for sellers to grab a bigger share of the market is to offer something a little different, especially if it speaks to the nation's growing health and environmental consciousness.
"We are certainly seeing a lot going on with milk. Milk is definitely a gateway category into the larger health and wellness world" said Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, a Bellevue-based consulting firm that studies consumer behavior.
Consumer demand for milk without added bovine growth hormone prompted many of the new options in the dairy case, Demeritt said.
In a nod to growing interest in local foods, national brands like Carnation are giving way to more supermarket house brand hormone-free or organic milks, which typically cost more than conventional milk, Thompson said.
He attributes the growth in milks fortified with ingredients that boost fiber intake and battle heart disease to the aging baby boomer generation, which keeps searching for ways to stay healthy and active.
"What you see happening is food providers trying to cater to individual needs," Thompson said. "This is a way of refreshing the category and making it more relevant for today's more discriminating consumer."
All this choice can be confusing. Ultimately, which milk goes home with shoppers may come down to affordability, especially when food costs are on the incline for everything from flour and butter to eggs and sugar. The average price of a gallon of 2 percent milk at major Seattle supermarkets increased by nearly 20 cents over the past year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's agricultural marketing service data.
When cost is less of an object, local nutritionists say it never hurts to drink organic.
"Then, you have the advantage of not having any hormones or antibiotics in the milk," said Judy Simon, clinic dietician with the University of Washington. When that's not an option, look for milk without hormones or antibiotics from a Northwest dairy, she suggests.
Michelle Babb, who teaches nutrition at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, says many of the new fortified milks could boost our intake of helpful nutrients and shouldn't harm us, though it's always better to glean nutrients from a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Supplements in milk that she thinks are particularly helpful: Added fiber, calcium and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid gleaned from algae that contributes to brain, eye and cardiovascular health, often added to baby formula.
The growth of farmers markets around the state has introduced even more variety. That milk is held to the same safety standard as milk at supermarkets, said Claudia Coles, food-safety program manager with the state Department of Health. All dairy plants and farms in Washington, regardless of size, have to meet the same quality and sanitation standards to be licensed and approved. If in doubt, ask sellers for their most recent inspection report or to see their license, she said.
Dairies that produce raw, or unpasteurized milk, receive the same inspections, though Coles cautions against drinking it due to the potential of bacteria that can cause severe illness, especially in young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Since the milk is not pasteurized to kill pathogens, it's impossible to know that the milk you're buying a particular day is pathogen-free, she said.
Nonetheless, raw milk is yet another category that is growing, dairy data show. Vashon Island's Sea Breeze Farm has seen its customer base double at least once each year, said owner George Page. The farm produces 250 gallons a week of unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk and nearly always sells out, which he attributes to its rich flavor and a growing desire for food in its most natural form.
What's next? The Hartman Group's Demeritt expects even more milks fortified with health-boosting supplements. She's also noticed more consumers paying attention to how the breed of cattle or the herd's diet affects taste and quality, just as they already are with meat, eggs and produce. Milk sellers will respond by including even more information on the packaging, she said.
"Some of the brands out there are telling stories about the producers, the place it's coming from, how the cattle were raised. It's almost this emotional connection back to the producer, the place, the product. That's starting to resonate with consumers as well," Demeritt said.
"It's not enough to just sort of slap organic on a label anymore. You've got to give them the back story."
Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
NEW - 10:07 AM
Obese people asked to eat fast food for health study
NEW - 7:00 PM
Wine Adviser: Some good Washington wineries got away
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
"Iron Man 3" kicks off a summer blockbuster season that will see hundreds of speeding, squealing, exploding, airborne, rolling and smoking vehicles in...
Post a comment