Interesting facts about dairy products

Dairy products or milk products are a type of food produced from or containing the milk of mammals, most commonly cattle, water buffaloes, goats, sheep, and camels.

Dairy products include food items such as yogurt, cheese and butter.

A facility that produces dairy products is known as a dairy, or dairy factory.

Dairy products are consumed worldwide, with the exception of most of East and Southeast Asia and parts of central Africa.

Milk has been used by humans since the beginning of recorded time to provide both fresh and storable nutritious foods. In some countries almost half the milk produced is consumed as fresh pasteurized whole, low-fat, or skim milk. However, most milk is manufactured into more stable dairy products of worldwide commerce, such as butter, cheese, dried milks, ice cream, and condensed milk.

In the early 1800s the average dairy cow produced less than 1,500 litres of milk annually. With advances in animal nutrition and selective breeding, one cow now produces an average of 6,500 litres of milk a year, with some cows producing up to 10,000 litres.

Almost all the milk now consumed in Western countries is from the cow, and milk and milk products have become important articles of commerce.

The most expensive milk on the market comes fresh from Japan’s Nakazawa Foods for a whopping $43 a quart – more than 30 times the average cost of milk. Supposedly this milk has special stress-relieving qualities. The secret behind its qualities is that the milk is taken from cows only once a week at dawn when the animals release higher levels of hormone melatonin; qualities that you definitely need in milk that you are paying so much money for!

Nobody knows when yogurt was discovered, its origins have been lost in the mists of time. What we do know for sure is that fermented milk was already being used in prehistoric times. Legend tells that yogurt was discovered because a shepherd, forgetting some milk in one of these skins for a while, when he finally remembered it, found it transformed: into something denser and tastier.

The oldest writings mentioning yogurt were by Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD), who said that some people knew how to thicken the milk into something which was sour but tasty.

Fresh unpasteurised milk quickly separates and the fat rises to the top. This fat layer is then skimmed off and is known as cream.

Cream produced by cattle grazing on natural pasture often contains some natural carotenoid pigments derived from the plants they eat – this gives it a slightly yellow tone, hence the name of the yellowish-white color: cream.

Sour cream is made by fermenting regular cream with certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. The bacterial culture, which is introduced either deliberately or naturally, sours and thickens the cream. Its name comes
from the production of lactic acid by bacterial fermentation, which is called souring.

Sour cream’s history dates back to the first half of the 20th century, and is associated with the cooking traditions of Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine and Germany.

The butter we most often buy is made from cow’s milk, although other varieties — made from the milk of sheep, goat, yak, or buffalo — are also available.

In the Bible, butter is a food for celebration, first mentioned when Abraham and Sarah offer three visiting angels a feast of meat, milk and the creamy yellow spread.

The ancient Greeks and Romans seemed to have considered butter a food fit more for the northern barbarians. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder calls butter “the most delicate of food among barbarous nations”, and goes on to describe its medicinal properties.

In antiquity, butter was used for fuel in lamps as a substitute for oil. The Butter Tower of Rouen Cathedral was erected in the early 16th century when Archbishop Georges d’Amboise authorized the burning of butter instead of oil, which was scarce at the time, during Lent.

The word “cheese comes from Latin caseus, from which the modern word casein is also derived. The earliest source is from the proto-Indo-European root *kwat-, which means “to ferment, become sour”.

There is no exact information regarding the origin of cheese, archaeological studies have shown the origin of cheese dates as far back as 6,000 BC. Studies also show that during that era cheese was made from cow’s milk and goats in Mesopotamia.

Ancient Greeks and Romans were the first to turn cheese making into a fine art. Larger Roman houses even had a special kitchen, called a careale, just for making cheese.

It takes around 10 liters (2.6 US gallons) of milk to make 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of hard cheese.

People of Greece are the largest consumers of cheese worldwide. An average person from Greece consumes around 27.3 kilograms (60.1 pounds) of cheese every year, about 3/4 of which is feta cheese. On the second place is France and third is Iceland.

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