Fat Content

The percentage of fat in the cream must be known and controlled. It influences fat losses in churning. Knowledge of the fat content assists in yield estimations for operational conditions in continuous manufacture. A number of satisfactory procedures are available, with the Babcock test being the most common.

The chemical composition of the triglycerides, which comprise milk fat, varies throughout the year depending on the stage of lactation and the cow's diet. This causes a cyclic change in the melting properties of the fat. In the control of the butter-making process and the physical properties of the finished butter this factor must be monitored. The term melting property is used rather than softness or hardness because these more correctly refer to an altogether different attribute of solids. A number of procedures have been used to follow the seasonal change in the melting properties. The iodine number, refractive index and differential scanning calorimetry, or pulsed nmr spectroscopy can be used to prepare a melting curve. However, the expense and complexity of these melting curve techniques precludes the approach in most quality-control situations (21). The traditional chemical determinations for fat, saponification value and Polenske value, are of limited value. They are scarcely relevant for quality control, and the information they represent can be more usefully quantified by the determination of the fatty acid profile using gas chromatography.

Today the use of stainless steel has essentially eliminated the exposure of the fat to copper and iron. The presence of copper and, to a lesser extent, iron can catalyze oxidative deterioration of butter during storage, particularly in the presence of salt and a low pH.

Many procedures have been used or proposed to assess the microbiological quality of the milk or cream. Generally, microbiological tests are performed to determine the hygiene of production and storage conditions or for safety reasons. Tests include total counts and counts for specific classes of microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, coli-forms, psychotrophs, and pathogens such as Salmonella. Rapid-screening tests based on dye reduction or direct observation using a microscope or automatic total counters are also in use.

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