It’s morning. You’re pouring milk over your cereal and a thick glob lands on your cornflakes as you tip the carton. What do you do? These days most people don’t expect to find cream in their milk, so many think this yellow blob mean it’s gone off. Homogenised milk is the norm today, and the cream line is an endangered beast.
Homogenisation is a mechanical process which breaks up the cream’s fat globules so they don’t float to the top, and distributes them throughout the liquid. There are several reasons behind this; it increases the whiteness of milk and stops ‘unsightly’ cream streaking, it reduces its fatty sensation, which large-scale processors believe consumers don’t want, and creates a uniform consistency, crucial when processing milk in huge volumes.
We don’t homogenise at the Riverford Dairy as we feel it’s unnecessary, adding to the carbon footprint of the product, purely for cosmetic reasons. Our philosophy of keeping things simple applies here and anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a big factor in our milk’s popularity; it means it’s got personality.
Mass-produced milk travels from many farms and is standardised at enormous processing plants before bottling, so there’s no difference month to month. Riverford milk only comes from our herd (though occasionally we have to top it up a bit), so its flavour and colour reflect what’s going on in the farming year – and the milking parlour is 200 yards from the dairy. Come springtime when the cows go out their milk is lighter at first, then becomes richer and more yellow as new grasses and clovers come through. In the winter they eat mainly silage and hay, so the milk changes again. Our cows also get what doesn’t fill your veg boxes (nicked spuds, dented apples) which we think adds to their milk’s deep flavour.
Some people believe that unhomogenised milk is better for you too, linking it to a lower risk of heart attacks – however not all scientists agree on this. It’s probably best to stick to the old adage that nature knows best. We don’t mess with your milk, we just pasteurise and pack it, so enjoy your pint of personality. Though technically it’s 568ml – it just doesn’t sound as romantic.
Rachel Lovell from Riverford’s ‘bucking bovines’ video