Dry Milk’s New Role: Food Security Around the World
Take a walk down the dairy aisle in your grocery store and you’ll be amazed at the selection of milk-based products. Let’s see: There’s milk, of course, but you can choose between whole milk, skim, 1%, 2%, organic or non-hormones added. Then there’s cheese in all its different forms—cheddar, American, mozzarella, to name a few. Yogurt, ice-cream, sour cream, whipped cream, cottage cheese and butter. And let’s not forget eggnog during the Christmas season.
Stroll down another couple of aisles and you’ll discover powdered milk, condensed milk and whey powder. Dairy farmers definitely have a great market for their products in the United States.
Good Dry Goods – Spotlight On Powdered Milk
While American families have trended toward a reduced consumption of liquid milk over the past few decades, these other products are finding new market niches. Dry and powdered milk is an excellent example of this.
Fifty years ago, surplus milk in America was powdered and largely sold to the government for distribution in its various meal programs. Today, dry milk products, especially purified whey and casein, are used in a variety of ways – from baby formula to whey isolates that are used by many athletes to build or maintain muscle.
There is almost no difference between the liquid milk you drink and powdered milk. It is almost exactly the same product, except you have to stir milk powder into water and mix it before you can drink it.
In Demand Around the World
Countries like China, Russia, and developing nations in Africa and South America are interested in milk powder as a nutritional “buffer.” Milk shortages caused by weather – too much or too little rainfall – can affect the grain crops that are needed to feed the herds. Powdered milk from American farms can help with food security and stability in these nations.
How Powdered Milk Is Made
Once our milk haulers drop off the milk at the milk plant it is taken to the creamery, when it is run through a filter and tested to make sure it meets quality standards.
Next it is passed through an evaporator to remove a third of its water and to pasteurize the milk. Its solid content is increased by 50 percent during this treatment. The butterfat is then removed and stored for later use. What’s left behind is skim milk.
The milk is then mixed automatically so every batch is consistent and contains exactly the same amount of solids and butterfat. It is then converted into powdered milk in immense drying towers that work like giant spray cans. They squirt the milk out into 400°F swirling air, and the hot air dries out the milk until only flecks of dry powder are left. It settles into a funnel, which channels it into the packaging area.
Dry milk has a very long shelf life, and is easy to ship and store. It’s a great example of the way modern technology and innovation can make nutritious products accessible to people all over the world.