June 22, 2019

Milk: There’s No Substitute

Katie Reynolds-Da Silva takes a tall drink from this key ingredient found in every chef’s kitchen.

Milk is an essential tool in any chef’s arsenal, and is a key component of most peoples’ dairy intake. But with the explosion of health and wellness trends in recent years, many people have turned to other forms of milk in order to avoid any adverse health-related consequences.

Before we dig into the abundance of alternatives to conventional cow’s milk, let’s look at the two types of milk that are still most popular with the general public.

Back to basics:

The first is pasteurised fresh milk, named after Louis Pasteur who developed the process in 1864 to improve the keeping qualities of wine. Commercial pasteurisation of milk began in the late 1800s in Europe and in the early 1900s in the United States. Pasteurisation ensures milk is safe to drink, because during the process, appropriate heat treatment kills harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk and ensures that the milk is safe for human consumption. Fresh milk must be refrigerated below 5°C.

The second is pasteurised long life milk, which is subjected to ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatment. This process is used to give milk a long shelf-life. The milk is heated briefly to a very high temperature (135-150 °C) and then quickly cooled to 4 °C or lower. If the milk bottle or package is sealed, you can store a container of UHT milk in the cupboard. But once opened, it must be kept in the fridge and used within 4-7 days.

South Africa has a plethora of companies that produce fresh milk to retailers countrywide; these include Parmalat, Bonitas, Woodlands, Fair Cape, Clover and First Choice.

Milk with a twist:

With the rise of lactose intolerance and other dairy-related issues, consumers are looking to our industry for alternatives to cook with, bake with, or just to put in their morning coffee.

Animal and test-tube studies have shown that coconut milk may reduce inflammation, decrease ulcer size and fight viruses and bacteria that cause infections. It is packed with important nutrients such as manganese and copper, and can be used in drinks, smoothies, and to make porridge. In traditional Asian cuisines, thick coconut milk is used in desserts and thick sauces. Thin coconut milk is used in soups and thin sauces.

While not as nutritious or flavourful as dairy milk, almond milk is a low-carb drink, making it the ideal choice for people on a low-carb diet, as well as those with high blood sugar levels. Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to remove the solids. It can also be made by adding water to almond butter.

Other trendy milk substitutes include soy milk, rice milk and oat milk, although the actual health benefits of each have yet to be officially determined, and should never take the place of fresh milk and other dairy products in a child’s diet.

Health Connection, Good Life, Blue Diamond, Ecomil, Biona Organic, Nature’s Charm and Cocomi all produce alternatives to traditional milk, and their products can be bought online or in-store.

Enter the experts:

Christine Leighton is Project Coordinator of the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA, and a veritable fountain of wisdom on the subject of milk. We chatted to her about the advent of the raw milk craze, and also got her to answer some more of our burning questions:

What exactly is raw milk and why is it popular? What are the perceived benefits of drinking raw milk?

Christine: Raw milk refers to milk that has not been heat treated, and comes directly from the cows, goats, sheep and other mammals. Raw milk has a similar composition to pasteurised milk, however, raw milk can possibly carry harmful bacteria that can pose a serious health risk to people; especially pregnant women and
the immune compromised. The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA (CEP) does not promote the use of raw milk.

There is no scientific evidence available which shows more health benefits associated with the consumption of raw milk.

What are the dangers of raw milk?

Christine: Raw milk may carry harmful bacteria such as Brucellosis (expressed as Malta Fever in humans) and Tuberculosis that can have serious health risks. It is illegal to sell raw milk in SA unless it is approved by the health authorities. (The herd must be certified as Brucellosis and Tuberculosis free).

What regulations and laws currently exist that ensure the wellbeing of milk-producing animals?

Christine: The Dairy Standard Agency (DSA) has a code of practice for both the primary and secondary industries, and more information about the DSA can be found on www.dairystandard.co.za.

The importance of animal welfare is well recognised by dairy producers, and they have come to realise that it as an essential and traceable part of the value chain for the quality of their products to the consumer. In light of this, the South African National Standard for animal welfare (SANS 1694:2018) was introduced in 2018 and is available from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

What varieties of milk exist for people who want to reduce their dairy intake?

Christine: It is difficult to replace the nutritional and health benefits of milk with other products. Varieties of milk based on fat content includes fat-free, low-fat, medium-fat, full-cream milk and high-fat milk. The only difference between milk with a higher or lower fat content is that all the fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin A, is lost when fat is removed as in the case of low-fat and fat-free milk. Also available in the market is lactose-free milk for people who are lactose intolerant. There are many fermented and flavoured options in the form of yoghurt, buttermilk, maas and flavoured milk.

Plant-based drinks such as almond and soy milk are also available. However, plant-based drinks are highly processed and fortified products and do not naturally provide important nutrients such as protein and calcium. Plant-based drinks cannot replace milk in a healthy diet.

IDF World Dairy Summit 2020:

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) will host their annual conference in Cape Town from 28 September to 1 October 2020, at the CTICC.

“The South African dairy industry operates in a deregulated environment, which means that there are no measures from government to intervene in the production of raw milk or in the markets for manufactured dairy products. The industry deals with issues of common interest through a well- organised structure where Milk South Africa acts as the vehicle in the industry through which clearly defined strategies, goals and objectives are executed and funded via a statutory dispensation.”

says Melt Loubser, President: South African National Committee for the IDF

The proper execution of these common challenges contributes to the growth of the industry including increased demand for dairy products. The favourable agricultural environment in Southern Africa and certain parts of South Africa can support a substantial increase in the supply of raw milk with the resultant increase in manufacture and consumption of dairy products.

“I believe that participation in the 2020 World Dairy Summit will create excellent exposure for businesses who wish to position themselves in and amongst the South African and Southern African dairy industries. Their presence will create the opportunity to share in the future development of this market with over one billion consumers. We experience great interest in this summit, and expect in excess of 1 200 participants from all over the world,” says Melt.

More about the consumer education project os milk SA (CEP):

The CEP communicates the health and nutritional benefits of dairy to consumers and health professionals. The project is multidisciplinary as it uses expert knowledge from different sources that is communicated to the target audiences through television, radio and print. A combination of sound scientific information and a good understanding of consumer behaviour anchors the project.

The CEP has two informative websites: www.rediscoverydairy.co.za and www.dairygivesyougo.co.za


Sausage, kale and potato recipe:


  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 cups kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tbsp grated nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cups Parmesan, grated


  1. Butter a 23cm square ovenproof dish and rub with a halved garlic clove.
  2. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the kale for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Squeeze dry and
    set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  4. In a large pan, melt butter and sweat leek and fennel seeds 8 minutes without browning. Add kale and cook for 1 minute while stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer to the prepared dish. Arrange sausage and potato on top.
  6. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes and add milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  8. Cook for 2 more minutes and add nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Pour the sauce over the dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese.
  10. Cook for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven until sauce is bubbling.

Courtesy of dairygoodness.ca