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The real story behind permeate-free milk

14 November 2013 Miranda Partridge

The real story behind permeate-free milk

There are many dairy milks in the market claiming to a healthy choice - full cream, reduced fat, low fat, skim to name a few. Each type boasts about its health benefits, like added nutrients, A2 proteins, no lactose, and more recently, permeate free milk.

I personally can’t drink milk due to lactose intolerance, but I grew up in a small valley in North East Victoria surrounded by dairy farmers and ended up in a relationship with a man whose family owns a dairy farm, so I can’t help but feel connected to the dairy industry. When I first heard of permeate-free milk, I was intrigued. My boyfriend had no idea what it was and I hadn’t come across the term myself, so when I was given this topic to research I was eager to find out the results.

What is milk permeate?

Permeate is a by-product of dairy foods produced in the making of whey protein concentrate, cream and cheese. It consists of lactose (milk sugar), vitamins and minerals. It is often added to milk to standardise its nutritional composition and taste, which naturally fluctuates with the seasons.

What is the benefit of permeate-free milk?

So far the spin on permeate is that the dairy industry is “watering down” the milk, but according to the Dietitians Association of Australia, the nutritional difference between milk with permeate and permeate-free milk is minimal (source). All milk in Australia is processed to some degree unless you are getting it straight from the cow’s udder. Legally in Australia if you purchase milk, it needs to be pasteurised, which is a process where milk is quickly heated to destroy bacteria. Cream is separated and re-added to the milk at different percentages and most milks are also homogenised to prevent the fat from separating and rising to the top. Permeate free milk is no different, it just doesn’t include the permeate adding process.

Some companies who advertise their permeate-free milk claim not only that it tastes better, but froths better for use in coffee. However, a Choice review of milk found that the taste of permeate and non-permeate milk was comparable, and the ability to create milk froth with a coffee machine was no different to regular milk (source).

So which milk should I drink?

Honestly, it seems that drinking milk with or without permeate is up to personal preference. With minimal difference between taste, nutritional content and additive content, it is much of a muchness. In the end these milks are just as processed as one another. However, a positive to come out of this push is that the public is more informed about the processing of the milk we consume, so we are able to make more conscious choices.

If you are going to drink milk, it’s best to drink locally produced, certified organic milk. Locally produced milk has to travel a shorter distance, which requires less fuel and puts money back into local businesses. Organic milk is produced without pesticides, chemical fertilisers, antibiotics and genetically modified plants in the growth and development of the cows. I could not find any information about permeate in organic milk.

Not only does organic milk limit your consumption of these chemicals, it limits the impact on the environment. While it does have to be pasteurised, it is not always homogenised, so it can be a less processed option.

Miranda Partridge

About Miranda Partridge

Miranda Partridge is a nutritional medicine practitioner, self-love advocate and lifestyle blogger based in Brisbane. Through her website she shares tips, insights, thoughts about her wellness journey and her quirky and dorky sense of humour. Miranda's clinical practice, workshops, blog posts and videos are all about embracing your own unique qualities, enjoying the healthy habits you create and feeling empowered to live your best life without the need to aim for perfection. Just real food and real strategies for real people.

View all articles by Miranda Partridge

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