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Oceania, negative data for milk production

A decidedly negative period for two of the major Countries in Oceania, Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, Murray Goulburn, one of the major Australian milk processing companies, keeps reporting financial losses referred to the period July – December 2016, in view of a 5% decrease in collected milk (source:

In New Zealand, Fonterra amended its forecast for what regards collected milk during the agriculture season ending May 31, passing from a -7% to a “better” -5 presents on the previous agricultural season. Payout for prices at the stable that was forecast this last November has been confirmed (around €4/kg; data

The decrease in milk production, in the second semester 2016 in Australia amounted to 8.55% compared to the same period of the previous year; in New Zealand, between June 2016 and January 2016, the decrease has been decidedly less severe (-2,61%).

Prices of derivative products in Oceania

As for prices of derivative products in Oceania, process for butter are on the rise, and they have reached their maximum point. This increase was expected due to limited availability of fat matter in the area. Australia dealers prefer to supply those customers who purchase bigger quantities and on longer terms. This fact contributed to lower Australian export of butter, unlike New Zealand which, thanks to a definitely smaller population to satisfy, could increase its sales to the foreign market.

Cheddar cheese prices are slightly decreasing, but the market is expected to stabilize soon. Meanwhile, internal demand for this kind of cheese in Australia is still on the rise.

For what concerns prices of milks in powdered form, price of skimmed milk is slightly increasing, with a market focused on the short-term. Maximum prices for powdered whole milk are slightly decreasing, this situation is probably due to the fact that some potential buyers have slowed down their purchases and some European competitor producers have intensified their efforts in order to penetrate international markets with competitive prices.

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Sheep milk mozzarella is unique to Italy

Mozzarella from sheep milk is not simple to make for various reasons which are purely technical: the variability of sheep milk, its acidification and the maturation of the curd. And yet in Italy there are people who have got heavily involved in the production of what is defined by those who have tried it as a real delight. We are talking about companies located in regions with strong agropastoral traditions, inevitably Sardinia, Sicily and Lazio.

Mozzarella from sheep milk in Sicily…

In Sicily there is even talk of the PDO logo. The young Sicilian Lina Cammarata was the first to speak about it; after graduating she dedicated herself to producing cheese made from sheep milk in Caseificio Isidoro, her father’s dairy, based in Castelvetrano.

In Sardinia 

It is a niche product limited to a group of connoisseurs due to it being difficult to produce as previously mentioned. In 2013 it was produced by the livestock farm Pab’è is tèllasa (“stony ridge”) belonging to Marco Melis and Maria Atzeni from Sant’Andrea Frius in the mountainous area of Gerrei, the province of Cagliari. “To realize it”, says Maria Atzeni, “four years of work were required as sheep milk is difficult to spin in such a way as to create a soft product like cow’s or buffalo mozzarella”. The company produces about a hundred kilogrammes of mozzarella per week, owns roughly 500 sheep and produces about 50,000 litres of milk per year. It has about twenty products in its basket including goodies like Joddu (ancient yoghurt made with traditional raw sheep milk), Pirittas and Callau axedu.

… and in Lazio

Is there a history of sheep milk mozzarella? It would seem so, at least according to the Associazione Formaggi Storici della Campagna Romana (Association of Historical Cheeses of the Roman Countryside) due to a product called mozzarovi, which was produced by Caseificio De Juliis towards the end of the 90s and appears to be based on a recipe used by the ancient Romans, from Columella, in 50 AD, in his book De Re Rustica, to Apicio (first century AD) in his book De re coquinaria.

Production Techniques

For the Associazione Formaggi Storici della Campagna Romana, mozzarella from sheep milk is produced with raw whole sheep milk to which lamb rennet is added. The breaking of the curd occurs at a temperature of 36°C; it is broken up into pieces the size of a hazelnut (roughly 1 cm). After being broken up, the curd is left to acidify (6-20 hours) and is then broken into pieces approximately 2×2 cm in size. Hot water is added at roughly 80°C. The curd is quickly spun by hand, stretching the paste considerably; the mozzarella is also made by hand. The mozzarella is then cooled in water at about 10°C, placed in brine for roughly five hours and then packaged in its own liquid.

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Whey for denaturizing asbestos

Destroying asbestos using whey and producing CO2 and other harmless and marketable elements? It can be done. It is a real godsend for a country like Italy, hit by serious shortages: according to the Department of Production Installations and Anthropic Settlements (DIPIA) of Inail, in June 2013 there were only 73 disposal sites in the whole country of which only 19 were active and in 8 regions, mostly in the South, dumps are completely absent. 23 years after asbestos was banned (L. 257/1992), Italy, first country in Europe to do that, is still facing the disposal of asbestos products and is not prepared to handle the health emergency that could arise as a consequence.

The patent for neutralizing asbestos and therefore cut down disposal costs comes from Bologna University, thanks to a research led by Prof. Roberto Roveri, full professor of general chemistry at the Bologna Institute, regarding the possible neutralization of negative effects tied to asbestos cement, the dangerous material composed of 90% cement and sand and 10% asbestos.

How does this process take place? The chemical reaction from the union of these two elements creates simple carbon dioxide and leaves a residue of calcium and asbestos fibers on the bottom. These must not be disposed of in a normal dump but they must be completely destroyed in total safety using a secondary process. Everything is based on a double-phase immersion of the products in the acid byproducts of cheesemaking processes. The first phase makes the cement soluble, while the second one, at 180°C, is supposed to completely destroy the asbestos fibers.

The system is supposedly risk-free, since it takes place within a pressurized liquid therefore preventing the really dangerous asbestos particles to become volatile.

As anticipated, this process comes with the possibility to create marketable products, for instance water paints or fertilizers. But that is just the beginning, in fact, through a simple electrolytic process there is also the possibility to obtain magnesium, nickel, manganese and other remarkably valuable metals that are not easily found in Italy.

The case for Puglia

The first implant for asbestos neutralization through whey designed by Project Resources Asbestos srl was supposed to be built in Melpignano, a small town in Puglia with around 2000 inhabitants; the plan has been stopped by the population and then moved to Andria, where a pilot industrial plant is still under evaluation.

The inhabitants of the small village in Salento opposed to the project also using a parliamentary question, in which it is reported that in Italy there are over 100 patents for neutralizing asbestos, none of which reached adequate safety standards and an acceptable cost/benefit ratio.

Local associations, for what concerns the process patented by Chemical Center Srl, asked themselves many questions. One of the main features of the project, for instance, is the recycling not only of the whey but also of other byproducts, if sufficiently acid, such those derived by viticulture or olive milling, that is “food waste typical of the region where the implant is situated”. However, in order to process the 10 tons of asbestos a day expected by the business plan, 50 to  1000 tons of whey would be necessary: a quantity the region doesn’t have. Moreover, as the Pugliesi state, it is unclear how the chemical reaction between asbestos and whey could be reproduced using the other acid refluxes mentioned and it is not clear what safety procedures should be applied in the implant during the phase of transportation/storage/treatment of asbestos products.

The Chamber, in the matter of Melpignano and the project by Chemical Center srl, responded that Ispra (Superior Institute for Environmental Research) has never been involved in the evaluation of the project nor it has the technical specifications to proceed to assess said project.

Now, it looks like the company is giving it one more shot in Salento, more specifically in the industrial area of Cavallino, where it is asking to realize an experimental prototype for demonstration purposes of a treatment facility for processing asbestos cement products through whey.

The petition has been filed last October 7 to the Ministry of Environment, besides being filed to the Comune, to the Lecce Province and the Region of Puglia. The petition asks to verify the project subjection to feasibility and citizens have 45 days to file possible observations. Project Resource Asbestos S.r.l filed the request, along with Rei which owns the Galatone asbestos disposal site, and Ambiente&Sviluppo which manages the bio-stabilization implant and the former Galatone disposal site, and Geoambiente, which presented the project for the new special non-dangerous waste disposal site in contrada Masseria Parachianca, Lecce.

In Cavallino, they ask to start a reduced scale prototype which would be smaller than Andria’s with a potential of around 20 kg/cycle. Anyway, from Salento to Terra di Bari, still in the Region of Puglia.

Disposal sites and incinerators will disappear starting from 2020

There are currently other methods to denaturize asbestos but they are outrageously expensive. In France and Germany, for instance, they use thermal processes that crystallizes and make asbestos inert at around 800°C, by using a plasma lightbulb, which is effective but very expensive at a price point of around €900/ton, and introduces toxic gases in the atmosphere at the same time. In Italy, disposal sites are still the most popular solution, with a cost of just €140/ton, however it is an extremely dangerous solution and not a long-term one either: asbestos is packaged and disposed of in disposal sites, abandoned quarries that are coated in polymers. This choice involves high levels of criticality. In the disposal sites, asbestos bales are pressed together to be better buried. These practice is extremely dangerous because it crashes the asbestos inside the packages, making it volatile and therefore carcinogenic once the external package, in a 20 to 30 years, will inevitably give and the fibers will break free and pollute the aquifers.

In the meantime, the European commission ruled to ban incinerators and waste disposal sites within the year 2020. Therefore, we need an alternative solution.

The method invented by Bologna University, which extracts useful raw materials from asbestos destruction, would not only eliminate the need to create new disposal sites but it could also represent an incentive to reclaim existing ones. The process created by the researcher team, not only looks effective, but it could also provide several economic advantages. First of all, the main chemical reagent of the process is whey, which is a byproduct of the agribusiness, and could therefore be disposed of through a process presenting “zero” costs and zero environmental impact.

The results of the experts of Bologna University are being evaluated by the Ministry of Environment, which will have to decide about authorizing and possibly releasing funds for building the first facility.


Unfortunately, it looks like asbestos, at the end of the denaturation process, doesn’t completely disappear, but it just reduces its concentration (passing from 12% concentration to 2%). So, where do the residues go? Where to keep the facility filters which will partly contain them? And if there are residues, can we be sure the byproducts of the processing, such as the fertilizers, will be totally asbestos-free? These are reasonable and appropriate questions.

Mesothelioma, a disease caused mainly by asbestos, and all other disease tied to asbestos are still on the rise, and given the long latency period between exposition to the mineral and insurgence of the disease, the peak of one of the most aggressive neoplasia known to mankind is expected in around 2022.

The disposal of RCA (Asbestos-Containing Waste) is still not mandatory and if costs will remain so high, given the scarcity of disposal sites and appropriate neutralization facilities, we will still witness the illegal abandonment of corrugated materials and the likes, which will be exposed to the weather for a long time and will start to degrade and eventually let deadly fibers loose in the air.

The National Asbestos Plan was born 2012 and, to this day, haven’t been deployed yet. Cigl, Cisl and Uil Piemonte – one of the regions that have been hit the most by this issue, also due to the on-site presence of production sites – as of last October, once again state how important it is to classify asbestos disposal sites as Sites of National Interest, to incentivize the disposal of RCA with tax relieves and deliver them free of charge to the disposal facilities, and also define a maximum lifespan (25/30 years) for asbestos products.

What else is missing? Verification and evaluation by the Minister of Environment, to which Prof. Roveri has been asking hearing for several years, however there is never time to evaluate this project. Yet each territory could have its own asbestos processing facility. We hope operations to assess the validity of the process will start as soon as possible, without the usual delays due to bureaucracy, because in the meantime, mesothelioma is still killing people.

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Milk production in South America is falling

In recent months the dairy sector in South America has been affected by unstable weather conditions which have caused extensive damage. In Argentina, for exampe, milk production is continuing to decline partly due to the large number of cows that have died following recent flooding. The weather has now improved, especially in the states of Córdoba and Santa Fe, although the hot summer temperatures are increasing cattle stress. Consumption of bottled milk is on the rise mostly thanks to the reopening of schools. The national milk supply does not meet the needs of processing plants, and so much so that some processing companies are preferring to produce cheese instead of milk powders.

Likewise, there has also been a drop in production in Uruguay due to the high temperatures. However, the situation is now stabilizing. Unlike neighbouring Argentina, the milk supply is able to meet the needs of the dairy industry even though the low levels of fat and protein in the milk – due to the season – result in a reduction in butter production.

On now to talk about the largest Latin American country – Brazil. Milk production is seeing a seasonal decrease accentuated by unstable weather conditions and high day-time temperatures, which is keeping raw milk prices afloat.
Just like Uruguayan milk, the fat and protein content is low and the milk supply does not appear to be sufficient to meet the high demand from processing companies. The cream sector is being boosted by the lower availability of fat and a strong demand from manufacturers of butter and other cream-based products.

Milk sales trends

Milk sales have decreased in the four main South American countries, albeit very differently. There has been a sharp drop in Argentina with sales registering -14.38% compared to 2015. Brazil (period of reference January-September 2016) has suffered a sales decrease of 5% compared to 2015. The drop in sales has been decidedly less pronounced both in Uruguay, with January 2017 falling by 1.45% compared to the same month the previous year, and Chile, which is almost stable at -0.29% ( data).

The Northern Hemisphere is beating the Southern Hemisphere in milk production

It is worth pointing out how, at a global level, the main players in milk production from the Northern Hemisphere (Belarus, Turkey, Ukraine, the 28 EU member countries and the United States) have performed better in terms of growth in the last three years (from 23,730,400 tonnes in May 2013 to 25,735,800 tonnes in May 2016) than countries in the Southern Hemisphere (Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay which decreased from 5,691,500 tonnes in October 2013 to 5,259,300 tonnes in October 2016 – data).

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Earthquake, demonstration in Montecitorio for #betrayedstables

Just over six months have passed since the first earthquake on August 24 which, besides damaging people and properties, over the course of these months has caused an animal massacre, with over 10,000 animals who have died, have been wounded, have got sick or have been aborted due to the conjoined effect of earthquakes and bad weather. Yes, it was not only the earthquake but also a particularly adverse weather that forced animal to stay out in the cold due to stables and shelters being unfit for use. 9 out of 10 animals (85%) cannot be hosted in the promised temporary stables and farmers do not know where to put their cows, pigs and sheep who have survived.

The earthquake and the snow both have caused general instability in the territory, with acres of fertile farming land that have collapsed and cannot be cultivated, while the interruption of viability hits trade of salvaged production. If we add this to the fact that milk production dropped by 30% due to the stress caused by cold and fear of earthquakes, we can picture a critical situation to say the least.

Frustration and sense of abandonment: these are the most common sentiments spread amongst the farmers who yesterday gathered in the capital to protest. President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, was there to welcome them, and he received a delegation of agricultural entrepreneurs in Palazzo Madama, comoing from the middle Italy regions hit by the recent earthquakes. The situation is truly serious, on the brink of crisis, as illustrated by Roberto Moncalvo, president of Coldiretti and leader of a delegation of the association. “The earthquake” – said Moncalvo” – “ hit a territory which economy is based for the most part on agriculture, and now we have to actually help the territory if we don’t want to give up to abandonment and depopulation”.

#betrayedstables by a frustrating bureaucracy

The word we hear the most is “unbearable”. Everything has become unbearable. Months have passed since the events that trampled this sector and stil the barns have no suitable tools to continue a work which as a matter of fact has never stopped, amid every possible difficulties. Even those caused by a frustrating bureaucracy.

In rural areas stricken by the earthquake we can count direct and indirect damages for a total of 2.3 billion euros, taking into account roads and infrastructures, rural houses, stables, barns, warehouses also processing facilities, resale points, agricultural machines, processing machines and dead and wounded animals, to which we have to add losses deriving from the collapse of milk production and cultivations and from negative effects on the trade, decrease of tourist and inhabitants inflow. This is data contained in the Coldiretti report that goes by the caustic title, #betrayedstables, distributed in Montecitorio Square.

There are a total of 25,000 farms in the 131 municipalities hit by the earthquake in Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo; 292,000 ha of land used primarily as arable land, grazes and pastures for companies, most of which are family-run businesses (96.5%). Coldiretti data is based on the last Istat survey. There is a significant presence of breeding farms with almost 65,000 cattle units, 40,000 sheep and over 11,000 pigs; there is also a thriving agro-industrial production with cheesemakers, cured meat factories and olive oil mills where world renowned delicacies are produced. A rich and varied reality, a proud Italian reality that produces excellence, however it has been heavily limited and damaged by collapsed stables, barns and cheese factories and the animal slaughter.

This exasperation brought hundreds of farmers to protest and also bring along some of the survived sheep in Montecitorio Square. Some of the many signs exposed by the farmers read: “I lost my animals, but not my dignity”, “Less talk, more stables”, “AAA normality wanted”, “Bureaucracy kills more than the earthquake” and “the best Italy deserves justice.” There was also a big dining table laden with local products salvaged from the rubble, from Castelluccio lentils to Amatrice and Farinola Pecorino cheese, and much more, and all these products risk to disappear due to the difficult situation of local market, the tourist crisis, the forced migration and the delay in construction of temporary housing.

Adding insult to injury

As we all know, when it rains, it pours. A few days ago, the members of a milk production Association in Macerata received a letter that read: “We inform the members who produce sheep milk that the board of directors, during the February 7 meeting, decided that from January 1, 2017 new price for sheep milk will be 0.€80 per liter.” That is adding insult to injury. In fact, the association used to pay €0.93 per liter; €13 cents less that, during these times where they have no stables, literally put them on their knees.

Everything is going well according to the government

In the meantime, it seems that things are moving on for the payment of €34 million of extraordinary aids for lost income to the farmers of the areas hit by the earthquake, according to a statement by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies. The Ministry explained that the resources allocated by the country, the European Union and by the regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo call for premiums for each animal owned by the companies before the earthquake amounting to €400 for each cattle unit, €60 for sheep and goats and €20 for swine.

Aids are supplied by Agea through a simplified procedure, reducing bureaucracy to zero. In fact, the request for the AIDS is precompiled and the farmer must verify that the number of animals corresponds (cows and buffaloes, sheep and goats and swine) to the number registered in SIAN and already integrated with the data provided by the Livestock Register – National Databank. Operations carried out at the center for agriculture assistance (CAA) will be free of charge for the companies thanks to agricultural Associations who promised to make the service freely available. Each week, Agea expects to emit a payment decree for requests received with an early 75% tranche of premium owned to each company, to be paid within the next 60 days.

Mipaaf states that these payments will be added to those distributed by Agea up to today, especially to the €90 million in aids directed, by unified demand 2016, to 33,000 companies and around €70 million of European funds for rural development, of which 50 million have been paid last week, earlier than expected thanks to the agreement between Minister Maurizio Martina and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. The Ministry continues in its efforts to help agricultural companies and breeding companies of the earthquake-stricken areas in order to guarantee production continuity and provide liquidity to companies during this emergency phase.

In the meantime, it looks like institutions still have a long road ahead if they want to keep their promises, also according to the authoritative voice of Radio Vaticana. Last March 1, as we can see on the radio’s web portalAugusto Batassa, a farmer from Castelsantangelo sul Nera, stated that some farmers managed to make it through the winter, but they made it without any aids from the Government or the Regions. Only 30 tensile structure have been built, and they are all but insufficient to house the cattle.

Action of solidarity from the “normal” country

Among the many dark clouds we can still see some rays of light: in fact, in the last few months a bona fide action of solidarity came from every region of Italy. In Tuscany, the local Coldiretti Association upped the ante on the solidarity front. “During the last few months, the ‘rural solidarity’ pushed us to send trailers and housing containers in the areas hit by the earthquake, says Tulio Marcelli, President of Coldiretti Tuscany – then we also activated the sale of Solidarity Caciotta Cheese in every ‘Campagna Amica’ Marketplace of our region, and the Tuscany consumers reacted very positively to this action of solidarity. After that, thanks to the “give a bale” initiative, the Coldiretti trucks loaded with hay made their way towards Abruzzo and Marche. Now it’s time for the “solidarity cow milkers”. Two double-unit milking machines on rails will be shipped to the cattle farmers reported by our crisis unit at the national Coldiretti Association”.

“These areas” – as Antonio de Concilo, director of Coldiretti Tuscany, explained in a note – “are characterized by a relevant presence of breeding farms, with around 65,000 cattle, 40,000 sheep and over 11,000 pigs. Production has been heavily limited and damaged by collapsed stables, barns and cheese factories and the animal slaughter so we decided to ship this cow milking machines to our less fortunate colleagues, in order to give a small contribution that will hopefully be useful to safeguard one of the jewels of the extraordinary patrimony of our territories.”

But there are also smaller stories like that of 22-year-old farmer Alessio Piccoli from Lombardy, who put up a solidarity network, through social media, between agricultural companies, traders and private individuals which, in a short period of time managed to gather five tons of animal feed for farm animals and pets.

Or the story of several hundreds of kilograms of hay coming from Rome farmlands, thanks to the initiative coordinated by Massimiliano De Juliis, a counselor of the Municipio IX of the capital, which within a few days managed to buy 14 bales of hay, each weighing 300 kg, to be added to the around 1200 kg of animal feed given by Cerealicola 80 and Vinciguerra Mangimi, for the areas hit by the earthquake.

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Cheese, butter and cream have beneficial effects on the heart

Are fatty foods such as cheese, butter and cream bad for the heart or not? It would appear not. Indeed, they could provide health benefits if accompanied by a reduced carbohydrate intake. In short, it appears that fatty foods are not the cause of so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Bergen and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports this thesis. According to the Norwegian researchers, it would appear that dairy products such as cheese, cream and butter do not cause an increase in bad cholesterol as is often feared.

The Study

Forty obese men, who were kept under strict control, participated in the experiment. Half of them were put on a diet that was low in fat and high in carbohydrate, whereas the other group followed a diet consisting of double the consumption of saturated fat, and 24% of their daily energy consumption was from butter alone.

The diet for each group consisted of roughly 2,100 calories, a large amount of vegetables and the elimination of junk food. At the end of the experiment each participant had lost an average of 12 kilos, most of which was body fat, thereby reducing the risks associated with obesity, such as hypertension and diabetes. ”The human body can function perfectly with fat as its main source of energy”, explains Simone Dankel, coordinator of the study. “We have observed a very positive metabolic response. In a diet energy can be obtained from either carbohydrates or fats. There is not much difference.”

Are saturated fats the cornerstone of the ‘French paradox’?

This study has in some way reduced the role of red wine, rich in antioxidants (especially Resveratrol), in the so-called ‘French paradox’, i.e., the fact that France has a low rate of cardiovascular diseases despite the national diet featuring a high consumption of cheese, cream and butter – all foods which are rich in saturated fat.

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Yoghurt in the fight against type 2 diabetes and breast cancer

It is a well-known fact that yoghurt is a nutritious and tasty food, yet the healing and protective properties of this ancient dairy product are less known. Yoghurt actually protects against type 2 diabetes and is a valuable ally in the fight against breast cancer in women.

Bad eating habits often play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Some foods, however, such as yoghurt, appear to have a protective effect. At least this is what was affirmed a while ago by researchers from Cambridge University, the authors of a study published on Diabetes which places yoghurt and fermented cheeses, which are low in fat, amongst protective foods.

Yoghurt in the fight against breast cancer

Today another step forward has been made in confirming the benefits and remarkable properties of yoghurt. A study published in Current Developments in Nutrition by a research group led by Susan McCann of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo (the United States) explains how some specific dairy products, if consumed daily, may help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. What is more, the dairy product recommended in the study would appear to be yoghurt.

The study compared the eating habits of nearly 2,000 women with breast cancer with that of roughly 1,200 participants who did not have this type of cancer. The researchers discovered that a higher consumption of yoghurt is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

Further in-depth study will clearly have to be carried out partly as it appears that the lower risk factor varies according to the tumour’s sensitivity to estrogen hormones. As a matter of fact, the researchers underlined that the changes depend on the type of dairy product consumed and that also in the case of yoghurt the potential protective effect they detected will have to be confirmed by further in-depth analysis, as already mentioned.

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Pasture Promise: a logo for ‘free-range’ cow’s milk

From early March British supermarket chain Asda will be stocking milk with the Pasture Promise logo indicating that the cows grazed outside for at least six months of the year, in one or two litre packages. The price will be between 20 and 50% higher than traditional products. This type of product provides benefits for both the animals – they will enjoy much greater freedom compared to common herds – and consumers, who will have a much higher quality milk.

Consumers: greater sensitivity



With regard to consumers, in a survey sponsored by the World Animal Protection, 87% of respondents said that they would buy ‘free-range’ milk from cows that graze freely and 56% said they would buy it even if it cost more. Furthermore, 72% of respondents declared that they were concerned about the welfare of cows. There are some cattle that never even set foot outside a cowshed during the course of their lives. However it is not only increased environmental awareness and concern about animal welfare that has pushed consumers towards this type of product; the milk crisis has not even spared Great Britain in the last few years. One need only consider that in the last decade more than 4,000 dairy farms have gone bankrupt and farmers have taken to the streets on several occasions to contest the sales policies of large retailers. Fortunately today large retailers follow consumer trends and mature markets such as those in Europe favour eating responsibly and making wise food choices.
To claim the Pasture Promise logo whose creator Neil Darwent (also director of the Free Range Dairy Network) received a BBC award as Best Farmer of the Year in 2014, you need to adhere to several rules which go beyond the minimum 180 days of free pasture for the cows. During the winter season, the food in their troughs must be composed of at least 60% forage and 40% natural cereals and natural protein-based products.

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Kefir – a surprising product from milk

Let’s talk about kefir, a word of Turkish origin and one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world. It is also one of the healthiest. Milk kefir is made by fermenting sheep, cow’s or goat milk.
We know that this drink has existed throughout history: historical notes indicate production in Europe, Africa and Asia. Kefir grains, used to ferment the milk, are composed of various selected microorganisms, especially bacteria, yeasts and fungi, which live in symbiosis.

A typical quality of all fermented foods is that they produce lactic acid. It is not by chance that both kefir and other foods subjected to the activity of lactobacilli and the like will, over time and to a greater or lesser extent, become acidic. This not only improves the shelf life of the food but also the digestibility and absorption of the bacterial cultures within it. Kefir is a very useful beverage for anyone who is lactose intolerant as it is split beforehand into glucose and galactose, thereby giving rise to lactic acid. What is more, the body is stimulated to produce lactase, an enzyme that lactose intolerant people lack which is needed in order to metabolize lactose. Kefir’s distinct characteristic is that it contains a type of lactobacillus called kefiranofaciens. According to some scientific studies, this can reduce inflamed intestines and symptoms of colitis.

Anti-cancer properties of kefir

Several studies have also highlighted how kefir grains can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells by activating their programmed death – in medicine defined as apoptosis. This has been reported in several papers published in numerous scientific journals which have examined the beneficial effects of kefir against breast cancer, leukemia and various types of tumors.

At the service of the immune system

Kefir also strengthens the immune system. Some studies have shown that it contains a substance called sphingomyelin, which is apparently involved in the production of typical proteins of the immune system known as interferons. Thanks to these compounds, viruses and bacteria have great difficulty reproducing.

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Milk production in Oceania falls while prices rise

In Oceania limited milk production is sustaining prices in the dairy sector.

In Australia, where the summer is drawing to an close, the availability of milk is still limited.

Milk production dropped in the second half of last year both in Australia (-8.55% in the July-December period compared to the same period in 2015 – data from and in New Zealand, the world’s main dairy exporter (less of a decrease with -2.97% in the June-December period of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015).

Decline in milk production and milk powder prices

The limited availability of milk and, consequently, of fat, is reinforcing prices of products with a higher fat content.

As far as whole milk powder is concerned, prices in Oceania are rising due to the limited availability of fat. In the first two months of this year the price of whole milk powder has confirmed the growth trend of the last part of 2016 (an average of 2,585 euros per tonne at the end of October last year rose to an average of 3,098 euros per tonne in mid February this year) with an increase of 65.72% compared to February 2016. Prices, however, are still far from those in Germany, where they increased to as much as 3,193 euros per tonne in January this year (to then drop to 3,096 euros per tonne in February), with an increase of 45.11% compared to January 2016. In Holland, despite prices having increased by 56.90% compared to those of the same month in 2016, there has been a decline (in February a tonne of whole milk powder costs 2,985 euros – data from

Skimmed milk powder prices are also increasing after 6 weeks of stability.

Prices for other products

Butter prices in Oceania are rising slightly. New Zealand butter manufacturers are able to obtain higher prices by taking advantage of the limited availability of fat. In Australia more remunerative milk is destined for manufacture into butter and producers are struggling to meet domestic consumption.

Prices are also on the rise for Cheddar. Cheese manufacturers believe that Cheddar is still one of the most profitable dairy products even if demand appears to be relatively stable.

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