Quality in the Dairy Sector: Insights

In the last decades, demand for dairy products has grown yearly very rapidly (about 5% or more), moved by new hygiene and health requirements, as well as increased product differentiation (cheese, yogurt, yogurt drinks, cream, fluid milk) (World Bank, 2007). In effect, milk is very important because of its composition, its consumption prevalence, and its use as a raw material for many food products (Konar et al., 2014).

High-quality requires testing and quality control at all stages of the dairy chain regarding these factors:

  • • Healthy cows and adequate rearing practices
  • • Excellent milking and milk hygiene
  • • Clean and comfortable husbandry and feeding conditions
  • • Technically sound milking and cooling technique
  • • Regular supervision of health condition of animals and especially of udder health (FAO, 1999, p. 26)

In particular, high-quality milk and its products depend on good-quality raw milk characteristics (GQRM) (see Figure The latter has to be free of debris and sediment, off-flavors and abnormal color and odor, chemicals (e.g., antibiotics, detergents); in addition, it has to have a low bacterial count and normal composition and acidity.

The hygienic quality of milk is of crucial importance in producing milk and milk products that are safe and suitable for their intended uses. To achieve this quality, good hygiene practices should be applied throughout the dairy supply chain. Then, improving safety and quality of milk is a very investigated topic; eminent authors observed farmers strategies aimed to improve quantity and quality of milk produced by their sheep (Bencini et al., 2010); others investigated and discussed the use of voltammetric electronic tongue or taste sensor for food quality control (Yu et al., 2014; Hruskar et al., 2009) toward discrimination of various brands of pure milk samples. A new tool, the electronic tongue (named e-tongue) measures and compares tastes; it can be defined as an analytical instrument that makes available unbiased sensory analysis digitizing the taste human

Good-quality raw milk characteristics. Source

Figure Good-quality raw milk characteristics. Source: Our processing on insight of the FAO data, available at: http://www. fao. org/agriculture/dairy-gateway/milk-and-milk-products/ quality-and-testing/ sense. In general, quality control related to liquid food is both time consuming and costly. An EU Seventh Framework funded project aimed to develop a computerized, user- friendly and cost-effective system for quality control in dairy firms. Development of nanosensors for the detection of quality parameters along the food chain (NANODETECT project) can be considered a very interesting system for quickly detecting contaminants and assessing their minimal risk level (MRL) without using harmful solvents.

On the other hand, a crucial requirement from consumers is quality milk with a reasonable shelf life and guaranteed production safety (Griffith, 2010; Yeung, 2012). Actually, in order to reach the latter consumer requirement, the milk industry investigates the use of new improved processes and technologies; recent investigations (Buckow et al., 2014) give evidence that pulsed electric field (PEF) processing can deliver safe, chill-stable fluid dairy products with extended shelf life, as well as improved sensory and nutritional properties. Others scholars demonstrate that rapidly increasing metagenomics technologies propose novel chances to characterize microbial diversity, detect noncultivable microbes, and so recognize unique sequences or other factors connected with quality and safety (Yeung, 2012).

Furthermore, on the other perspective, eminent scholars (Ribeiro et al., 2015) demonstrated recently, by means of observations and application of questionnaires, that the microbiological quality of milk from larger producers was higher. Then, Hanf and Pieniadz (2007) investigated two types of chain-quality management: strategic and operative. They studied the Polish dairy market; their results showed manufacturers of well-branded products implement strategic quality management aligned with existing market opportunities for best firm performance.

Afterward, a new concept in milk industry stands out in dairy sector scenario: the farm inclusion into the chain by means of a full control of milk parameters (Muniz et al., 2009). This derives from the observation that a huge amount of dairy farms make use of hormones and antibiotics during several steps (mechanical processing, addition/ suppression of nutrients, thermal treatment) in order to unnaturally amplify a cow's milk production and to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of milk consumption for the human healthy. Milk of quality is being replaced with consumption of milk products such as cheese, yogurt, and others (Muniz et al., 2009). Online sensors allow nutritional values such as fat, protein, and lactose content to be checked (Conto et al., 2015a; Muniz et al., 2009). Other opportunities in the milk industry derive from the exploitation of milk as a source of functional foods, achieving an new key selling segment. (Kelly, 2006; Ann Augustin and Clarke, 2011). So the concept of quality in dairy sector covers many aspects to be considered in light of new challenges and of new consumers requirements; safety close linked to quality concept must be ensured to protect consumer, especially vulnerable consumers such as children for whom milk can be a beneficial dietary component, and to support the livelihoods of dairy farmers and processors (Kenny, 2013).

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