Is Authenticity of Milk a bigger challenge than Safety of Milk ?
In a recently revised standard for Buffalo milk by FSSAI, the fat standard is reduced from 6% to 5%. Buffalo–milk is nearly–2–times richer in fat and about 30% higher in milk–solids-not -fat (mSNF) contents–than–cow–milk . One litre of buffalo milk can be equated with one and half litres of Cow milk. Thus 10 liters of buffalo milk equals to 15 Litres of cow milk considering the total milk solids content. Buffalo milk contains higher concentration of protein, and all the essential amino acids, beside fats, lactose and minerals .
Buffalo milk has more than 50% share in the total milk production of India . It also is considered as pure A2 while studies have shown that milk of even Desi cows have certain percentage of A1 in them.
Earlier the standard of Buffalo milk was 6% in Assam, Bihar,Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand,West Bengal which accounts for nearly two thirds of the total buffalo milk production in India.
Earlier standard of Buffalo milk
The buffalo milk standard for other states was 5% fat in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Daman and Diu, Himachal Pradesh ,Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura. These states and UTs contributes nearly one third of the total production.
Dairy farmers have found challenge in achieving 9% SNF in buffalo milk in certain areas due to their unawareness about the feeding practices. Fat was never a challenge in most part of the country. Most of the states in eastern and north eastern part were not producing enough to sell it to other states so there was no logic of changing standards because of them.
Buffalo is a more efficient animal
Buffalo milk is known for its higher fat and thus is priced higher than the cow milk. Buffalo rearing is more efficient than cow farming. Buffalos are known for efficient utilisation of low quality roughages.
There are many challenges also with buffalo rearing like late at first calving due to delayed maturity, long calving intervals, long dry periods and variable oestrous. Brazil considers buffalos as Black Gold and currently making efforts to attain the status of becoming the prime holder of buffalos stock in the world.
The Free fatty acids content of buffalo milk and ghee are significantly lower than cows. The total and free cholesterol (275 and 212 mg/100 gms ) in ghee are lower in buffalo than those in cows ( 330 and 280 mg/100 gms). So Buffalo ghee is lower in cholesterol also.
Was normalisation of buffalo milk standard necessary ?
The normalisation of standards of buffalo milk in the country may prove to be a nightmare for the milk processors. There is a thin line of differentiation between fat of desi cows and buffalo milk, if 5% fat standard is adopted. Most of the milk procurement and price table of milk are made on the basis of milk above and below 5%. While above 5% is considered at higher rates for buffalo milk, the milk below 5% is bought as cow milk at different rates. The dairy farmers are not selling milk as buffalo milk. At the time of sampling or logistics ,terms like mixed milk or cow milk is used.
Have you ever seen a tanker or shop where “Buffalo milk not for sale” is written?
Buffalo milk sales in packed form in the market is a recent phenomenon. The equivalent of buffalo milk is Full Cream milk or FCM. It will be an interesting thing to see that suddenly Full cream milk will be valued more than the buffalo milk. Buffalo milk will be loosing its sheen as Black gold. At consumer level the perception of pure buffalo milk is still better than any other milk including FCM. What will be the fate of this category in coming times is still unimaginable.
Fat standard parity of buffalo milk with cow milk will give an opportunity to sell their diluted buffalo milk as fresh farm cow milk at higher prices.
It seems that the dairies will have to adopt the RT PCR technology for testing the species of milk in order to ensure authenticity of the milk. The same machine will be able to test the milk for A1/A2 also which is another emerging fad.
I feel that the time has come when authentic milk is a bigger a challenge than safe milk.
A blog by Kuldeep Sharma ( Technical details related to buffalo milk has been picked up from the editorial of Dr G S Rajorhia, President IDA in Indian Dairy Man July 2021 edition. Excerpt from his article are shown in italics.