Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Nissen: More taste with less processing

Milk without reintroduced permeates is available and costs little more than one that tastes more watery.
Meadow Fresh Original Milk. Photo / Supplied
Meadow Fresh Original Milk. Photo / Supplied

Meadow Fresh Original Milk. No added permeate. $2.75 for 1 litre.

Today's column is going to be more about ingredients which have been removed from a product rather than ingredients which are additives.

Four years ago in September 2012, diary giants Fonterra and Goodman Fielder (which owns Meadow Fresh) were criticised by me and some small milk producers for adding permeate to their milk.

Permeate is a byproduct of milk processing which is added into milk, in effect watering it down, and making the milk much cheaper to produce.

At the time adding permeates was defended by Fonterra because they "needed to re-add the byproduct to its milk so that it could standardise protein levels throughout the year".

Re-adding permeate to milk is allowed under New Zealand food standards which state milk must contain 3 per cent protein.

At the time, across the Tasman, the permeate debate raged louder and longer than it did in our country with dairy farmers complaining that by watering down the milk with permeate they were not selling as much milk.

Following a huge consumer outcry, most of Australia's major milk brands decided to adhere to a self-imposed ban on adding permeate to milk.

Here in New Zealand the two dairy giants just kept on producing milk with permeate in it.

But in the past four years new milk producers have come into our supermarkets such as Lewis Road Creamery who do not process their milk and do not add permeates.

I have no idea how well the alternative less processed milks are selling but I know that I buy them and enjoy the taste which is similar to milk I drank as a child.

So last week, I just about drove off the road when I saw a billboard advertising this Meadow Fresh milk which is permeate free.

Apparently Goodman Fielder has "listened to our consumers who are asking for less processed products" and that "milk without added permeate actually retains a higher level of the naturally present protein" - which is the opposite of what Fonterra said four years ago.

So I think that perhaps the alternative, less processed milks have been selling well. And indeed Goodman Fielder owns Puhoi Valley which recently released organic, permeate free milk.

Thankfully, for the consumer, Goodman Fielder is absorbing the cost of the new bottle this milk comes in and producing a less processed product to invest in the brand.

I bought this one litre bottle for $2.70, and an Anchor blue top one litre bottle for $2.69 so the less permeate offering is a little more expensive.

My taste test confirmed that the Meadow Fresh one did taste a lot better.

In this country milk bottles need not list all the ingredients in milk, such as permeates and there are no regulations in New Zealand around re-adding permeate to milk because it is a dairy byproduct.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says: "Milk may be standardised with separated streams [eg. cream or permeate] provided the milk is truthfully labelled with regards to fat content and meets the minimum protein levels required by Australia New Zealand Standards Code standard 2.5.1."

So for the consumer, working out how processed one milk is compared to the other is impossible. Instead, as I do, opt for taste. If it tastes watery then opt for one which has a better milk taste and buy that instead. Most of the time I'm sure you'll find it's one which clearly states, like this one, that it doesn't add permeates.

Highlights:

• No permeate added.
• Less processed milk.
• Better taste.

- NZ Herald

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