We're just learning that the type of lighting used around milk can change its flavor profile. I'm not sure what it tasted like back in the days when it was delivered fresh to doorsteps from farms, but if we manage to find a way to reach that level of tastiness again, I'll be thrilled to try it.
According to a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech researchers have found a link between lighting and the taste of milk. The study suggests that the replacements of old fluorescent lighting with new energy-saving LED lights has had a positive effect on the taste of milk sold in grocery stores. Or should I say, the new lights have less of a negative effect?
On realizing this effect from changed lighting, researchers have begun working hard to "figure out ways to return to the fresh taste of milk that our grandparents experienced when it came straight from the dairy." The goal is to improve milk as the "delicious and nutritious" product that it is, so that consumers can benefit further from drinking it.
So, what makes milk change its flavor under different lighting? The study suggests that riboflavin, an ingredient in milk, oxidizes when exposed to fluorescent lighting. This causes both the taste and nutritional benefits to change. Have you ever felt that milk tastes better coming from a white jug, carton, or otherwise non see-through material? It might not be in your head. These materials, which keep the light out better than the clear jugs, can help to preserve the original taste. Apparently, the change can occur within only two hours of milk being under that light.
Susan Duncan, a professor of food science and technology in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is leading the study, and she has conducted taste tests in order to find what can be done to best preserve the flavor of milk. "Our target is to bring a smile to your face when you drink milk," she says.
According to Munchies, Duncan says these taste tests are just the beginning. Here's to great-tasting milk!