By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News
Newswise — Too much milk is pitched. This was an issue long before the current pandemic of global food insecurity. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in three gallons of milk went to waste in America over the past decade. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in three gallons of milk went to waste in America in the past decade. A team of scientists from Washington University in St. Louis used mathematical models to combine knowledge from multiple disciplines. Their study concluded that both strategies could increase milk shelf life by anywhere from a half-day up to 13 days. It was published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, one of the Frontiers journals. “In general, I would say that this is not a one-prescription-for-all problem,” said Forough Enayaty Ahangar, a newly arrived lecturer in supply chain optimization at the Olin Business School. “Our optimization models have shown that the optimal combination of interventions depends on the characteristics of each dairy processor. These characteristics include the quantity of processed milk and the quality supplied raw milk. Our optimization models offer unique decision tools that individual processors can use to determine the best strategy for their facility. “The problem of milk bottles sitting too long is a global problem. It’s at the intersection of food science and population, veterinary medicine, supply chain, and food science. Enayaty Alhangar joined forces with researchers from her previous institution — Sarah Murphy and Nicole Martin, Martin Wiedmann, Renata Ivanek, senior author at Cornell University — in order to test the strategies through modeling. This study focused on the problem of milk spoilage due to bacteria Bacillus. Paenibacillus and Bacillus sp. — which are found in raw milk from farms and whose hardyspores can withstand pasteurization. There is an alternative pasteurization that costs more and consumers complain about the milk’s taste after it has been subjected to higher temperatures. The team compared their findings with data from 24 states’ Agriculture Departments. They used a cow that produced 64 pounds or 15 half-gallons per day to calculate their results. In this paper, the researchers propose a new, flexible bonus/penalty system based solely on raw milk’s initial spore counts at production.Spore-reduction investment, or processing-level interventions: Milk-processing companies know that technologies such as microfiltration and bactofugation are costly to acquire, install and operate. This research showed that both the microfiltration and double-bactofugation methods were effective in reducing spore-forming bacteria in milk. This improved shelf life, defined as the first day that 5% of milk packages have a specific bacterial count, was 20-26 days for small processing plants to 28-31 days for medium and an average of 34 days for large processing plants. Murphy stated that while there is growing awareness in the dairy industry about the importance of low spore count raw dairy milk to produce high quality dairy products, there is no industry blueprint on how to do this. Our study is important because it contributes to the discussion about how the industry can invest into dairy farmers and technologies. It also provides tools that may be able to support industry decision makers. Enayaty said that the research focused on how the process could better allocate their budget to achieve a longer shelf life for their milk. Enayaty, a trained industrial engineer and optimization specialist, said that it was an incredible experience to work with Cornell’s Veterinary School. “I was able to work with epidemiologists and food scientists, as well as people from business schools . Our novel optimization models combine methods and knowledge from multiple disciplines. I believe our paper can be a good starting point to many other research projects in food industries. Ivanek stated that the ultimate goal of the research was to support the development a sustainable milk production supply chain. This will allow milk waste to be reduced in a cost-effective manner for all involved in food production and consumption. It is also socially acceptable and sustainable. The decision support tools, such as the mathematical models of milk spoilage that were developed in the multidisciplinary research effort of this study, are an integral part to that journey. Wiedmann added: “This project continues to develop digital tools for dairy and other food supply chain, which will play a significant role as decision support tools in industries as they continue improving productivity and sustainability of nutritious food. ———— This work was funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grant number CA18–SS-0000000206.
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