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What is Milk and how is it produced?

What is Milk?

Milk is a popular beverage for people of all ages throughout the world. Milk comes from various domesticated animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, camels, reindeer and buffalos. Milk is drunk in its liquid form and also converted into curd, cheese, butter, condensed milk and other products.

Technically, milk is the lacteal secretion from mammals. It is a white liquid that is packed with many nutrients like proteins, casein, sugar lactose, carbohydrates, salts, minerals, calcium and phosphate.

Milk is an agricultural product, extracted from domesticated animals and used for consumption worldwide by over 6 billion people in some form or the other. It is also one of the most tested and regulated foods, with the FDA setting many recommendations for milk.

Cow’s milk is produced on an industrial scale and is the most common milk around the world. Almost all milk in the U.S. comes from cows and over 90% of cows in the U.S. are of the Holstein variety. Other animals like goats and buffalos are popular as milk sources in the rest of the world.

There are a few multinational dairy farmers and large milk producing companies around the world, but in most countries, milk production is still carried out by small farmers. Cows are milked in these farms either manually or by milking machines that automatically extract milk from cows.  The milk is transported to collection centers, from where it is transported to dairies. At these dairies, this raw milk from farmers is pasteurized to kill germs, and  processed by spinning in a centrifuge and homogenizing (to add texture).

While liquid milk is bottled or packed into cartons right away after processing, a large quantity of milk is further processed in a variety of ways to create cream, butter or cheese. Some of the water content is evaporated from milk to produce condensed or powdered milk. Liquid milk is a perishable commodity, while powdered milk has greater shelf life, can be exported and transported easily and enjoys high global demand. One third of all milk is consumed as liquid milk and cream, whereas the remaining two thirds is used for products like cheese.

The top ten producers of cow milk in 2012 were U.S. (90.8 metric tons), India (54 metric tons) and China (37.4 metric tons) followed by Brazil, Russia, Germany, France, New Zealand, Turkey and the U.K.

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