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Milking a Land of Plenty?

Written By: - Date published: 10:39 am, April 4th, 2012 - 86 comments
Categories: class war, cost of living, Economy, food, health, poverty - Tags: , ,

NZ milk production has apparently risen by 30% since 2005. And, according to sources used by frenz.co.nz, back in 2006  over 14 billion liters of milk and 1.2 billion kilograms of milk solids (were) being processed by dairy companies annually That’s a lot of milk and associated dairy to spread around some four and a half million people. There should be no black market in the stuff. And yet it’s now being stolen to order.  So, what are we to think of a situation whereby the old idiom of  ‘selling coal to Newcastle’  loses it’s intended absurdity?  Fontera’s byline?  ‘Dairy for Life’. Indeed.

PS. Anyone know of their justification for adding water to the butter they produce? Just wondering. There must be a good reason, no? I just can’t imagine it is done simply to increase profit.

86 comments on “Milking a Land of Plenty? ”

  1. Mouse Trawler 1

    Adding water to butter improves its spreadability.

    • Tenfoot Bella 1.1

      Adding water also makes it cheaper to produce . Water is cheaper than milk fat.

      • Mouse Trawler 1.1.1

        Cream is the milk fat. Adding more cream to butter doesn’t make it more spreadable. You can either reduce the churn to make it more spreadable or add a non-fatty liquid. Reducing the churn reduces the shelf life of the product. It is true that water is a cheap ingredient but further processing is needed. You shouldn’t use spreadable butter in baking applications, so normal cultured butter is still the norm.

        There is no conspiracy, cultured butter, the blocks you see in the shop, is just pasteurised cream and cultures to finish and stabilise ti. Spreadable butter has water and usually canola to finish it.

        • Bill

          Erm. No Mouse. Mainland so-called ‘natural’ butter. List of ingredients: Cream, salt, water

          • Mouse Trawler

            You will find Bill that the ingredients of “cream” are milk fat and water. Water is a natural constituent of raw milk. During processing, including pasteurisation and churn, water and buttermilk are removed. “Natural” butter doesn’t include a lot of the cultures and preservatives. The cream isn’t fermented beforehand but the butter is aged. The reason water is added is to provide the consistency consumers expect. The melting point of milk fat is much higher than water, which makes it hard to spread. The natural moisture content of “natural” butter is 16% by volume. Spreadable butter water content can be as high as 50% by volume.

            • freedom

              “The reason water is added is to provide the consistency consumers expect.”

              Not exactly. The reason a consumer expects a feature that a product does not naturally posses is the manufacturer has created a market for that feature. This is most usually done to disguise some aspect of production that has allowed the manufacturer to lower their costs, increase their profits or most commonly both.

              Fonterra are open handed exponents of this process.

              • Mouse Trawler

                That is not correct. There are different kinds of butter all around the world, with different ingredients, ageing and maturation, culturing and manufacturing processes and the climate at which the butter is stored. Some aspects of large scale production have changed (ageing of finished product rather than use of fermented cream, to reduce storage costs for example) but water content isn’t one of them. Increased water content became necessary when pasteurisation became a standard process of milk manufacture.

                • freedom

                  sorry but it is correct and no amount of weasel worded finger waggling can alter the fact. Commercial progress is driven by a hunger for increased profits and a demand for reduced production costs.
                  Take off the blinkers Mouse and look past the stockprice.

                  • infused

                    You would find fault with anything written freedom. That’s the lefts way. BIG MONEY!!!1111 run for the hills. Getting tired.

                    • freedom

                      Not at all infused and perhaps if you exercised your compassion occassionaly it would not be so physically decrepit. I have no problem with big money, i have a big problem with how big money is earned, where it is applied but most often these days it is the nauseatingly obvious way big money is simply stolen from our society and along with it, our freedoms.

                      Money itself was only ever a short term solution to the complicated issue of barter but that is a subject for another day. The free market for example is a fair and commercially honest ideal that has never been allowed to exist. If it had you would not be relying on the final dregs of Earth’s oil deposits to live. You might be living in a world where threats of War are not policy but history. You would have [low cost] power generation and transport. You would live in a community, whether urban or rural, that would have healthy and sustainable food chains . Your career may even be one you want to do rather than being something best suited for meeting your expenses.

                      Big money could easily supply the private labour force and the public sector that serves it with decent wages and job security. It chooses not to. It chooses to stand over society instead. Its heavy incremental steps are forcing society into darkness so dense the rights of the individual have become impossible to define. There is a real potentiality in the concept that vast wealth can change the world to a better place. The lack of will is all that holds it back. That lack of will is now on its knees. Greed stands there above it, shaking its fists and hammering the heads of its captives who are struggling against the shackles of eternal growth. So very aware that if those locks were now to be undone the stones that built their ivory towers would become headstones .

                      When you have so much invested in hatred and fear, freedom is the most threatening of concepts.

                  • Lanthanide

                    But freedom, what is wrong with giving customers what they want, at a price they are willing to pay?

                    Essentially you’re saying the companies are evil for innovating a new product.

                    If this we really the case, we’d be stuck on mainframes and using buttons for our clothes fasteners.

                    • freedom

                      that is an overly simplistic statement lanthanide and you know it.
                      Progress is not solely limited to or enslaved by profit, it can exist without it.

                    • Lanthanide

                      No, it’s not overly simplistic. Y

                      ou’re decrying these companies that they’re somehow cheating customers by providing them with a product that is spreadable which apparently means it has water in it. These big evil companies “created” this market.

                      A financial transaction such as this requires two parties. If customers weren’t buying it, companies wouldn’t make it. Customers obviously see value in spreadable butter, regardless of whether you do or not.

                    • Bill

                      It’s the normal butter that has water added Lanth.

            • Bill

              Mouse. Most food has water as a natural constituent. But if you were buying pork and the manufacturer had injected the meat with water, would you say that’s fine cause pork is 90 odd % water (or whatever) anyway?

              Cream is fat and water. That’s one thing. But to add water is quite another. And that’s what a list of ingredients is…the list of stuff added together to produce an end product.

              Would water being added to pork allow the pork to be sold as ‘Pure New Zealand Pork’? I don’t think so. So why do you think Fonterra should be allowed to sell as “Pure New Zealand butter!” something that has had water added to it?


              Or how about their “Pure New Zealand Mainland butter that is triple churned and spreads straight from the fridge! It has that great butter taste because it’s 100% pure and natural with no additives or oils.”


              Apparently no water added then….just the water that was naturally present in the cream. (Although I may be missing some food industry definition of ‘additive’.)

              edit. To be real basic about this…Butter is cream. Not cream plus water. In just the same way that flour is ground wheat. Not ground wheat plus chalk.

              • Mouse Trawler

                Bill, Cream is not a stable or universal ingredient. The milk fat content of cream has a lot of variables, which is why you can buy double cream, whipping cream, light cream and sour creams and creme fraiches. If you want consistency of product (capable of being spread at 18 degrees, not just 30 degrees ambient air temperature) then you need different water contents dependent on consumer use of the product. You will find that the milk fat content of standard butter hasn’t changed in NZ or Britain since pasteurisation.

                • Bill

                  Water content has nothing to do with spreadability. Now, try again. Why is water being added to butter?

                  From the ‘New Zealand Dairy Research Institute’

                  Because New Zealand dairying is based on efficient pasture production, there are seasonal changes in the milkfat characteristics that are influenced by the grass growth. This, together with the lactational effects of the cow, produces substantial changes in the composition of the milkfat. In the summer, there are more saturated fatty acids in the milkfat and this is reflected in harder butter. The unsaturated fatty acids and the short chain fatty acids contribute to softer fats and hence softer butter, such as occurs in the spring.

                  • Mouse Trawler

                    Water content is everything to do with spreadability. What is the melting point of milk fat? Answer, 37 deg C. What’s the freezing point of water? 0 deg C. What’s the temperature of your fridge? 4 deg C. Why is cold butter difficult to spread? Because it’s in a solid state. How do you increase the spreadability of butter in a cold climate? Add a liquid that has a lower freezing temperature than milk fat. What are the most viable liquids that don’t detract from the taste of the fermented milk fat? Water and canola.

                    • Bill

                      ffs mouse!

                      In the summer, there are more saturated fatty acids in the milkfat and this is reflected in harder butter. The unsaturated fatty acids and the short chain fatty acids contribute to softer fats and hence softer butter, such as occurs in the spring

                      Now, what don’t you understand about that? Adding water would have nothing to do with spreadability.

                      And anyway. Why are you okay with adulterated food? (Granted, it could be a lot worse than added water, like fucking canola oil for example….)

                      Waht about banging chalk into flour? Or palm oil into chocolate? It’s all natural and all good, eh? And just what the customer ordered.

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      That is very smart googling Bill. You are correct that one of the variables in the “fatty acids” content of milk is seasons. Composition of individual fatty acids is connected to stock feed. A cow eating only grass in summer will produce different kinds of milk fats than dry feed and water in winter. But the big component in the hardness of butter is the moisture content of the cream. More nutritious feed leads to higher milk solid to water content in the milk. This is why farmers are paid on the quantity of milk solids they produce, not the litres of milk. Milk is just an emulsification of milk fats plus water.

                      If you don’t like the hardness of standard butter in the shop then either buy your own cow, feed it the kind of feed you need to to produce the butter you like, or buy the kind of cream you need to produce the butter you like. But the only way you can change the hardness of butter is to add or remove water and/or other fats with a lower melting point.

                    • Bill

                      So now we have you to the point where you may be reading stuff, how about you stick to the simple aside that was at the tail of the post. Which was. Why is butter having water added?

                      It’s been an interesting further aside, but my question had nothing to do with the relative hardness/softness of butter. It was simply asking why Fonterra adulterate (water down, if you prefer) the butter they produce.

                      You said it was to make butter ‘spreadable’. That’s not true. As you (almost) understood, hardness/softness has to do with the different fat composition or make up. Not water. (Cows in NZ are fed grass year round…not grain.) So, the fats make it harder or softer and certain fats can be removed if need be.

                      Now. Do you have an answer as to why Fonterra adulterate their butter?

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      I’m a microbiologist working in the food manufacturing industry, Bill. I don’t need to google.

                      You asked the question “why is water added to butter”, and I answered because water affects the hardness and spreadability of butter that consumers require. If you want consistent product and the ingredients are of variable constituents then you do need to adjust the quantities to produce a consistent product. You want hard butter that retains a low temperature during the puff pastry manufacturing process? Then you need a recipe with a high milk solid to water ratio. You want soft, spreadable butter straight from the fridge? Then you need a higher moisture content. You want longer shelf life? Then you need to add preservative (salt, additional lactic acids, etc), stabilise the fermentation process by artificial manufacture or keeping it cool, alter the culturing, seal the product from contaminants or reduce the microbial pathogens at the start of the process (ie use pasteurised milk).

                    • Bill

                      While I was waiting for you to not answer again and ignore both what the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute has to say on the matter and the implication from ‘mainlands’ own advertising; that it’s spreadable butter is ‘pure butter’ that has no additives, I went on one of those pesky google searches.

                      And I came across LACORS (a UK regulatory body) and what they have to say about water in butter.

                      Query 2
                      1. The compositional standard for butter has a maximum water content of 16g/100g, which is understood to allow for seasonal variation. The food business is adding water up to the maximum of 16%.

                      2. Is it permissible to add water to butter ( even up to 16% ) and does it need to be listed as an added ingredient or does it make the resulting product a butter spread?

                      Advice 2
                      1.Provided the water content does not exceed 16% it is difficult to see the legislation being able to prevent this practice taking place. For this reason it would be very difficult to argue that the added water should be ingredients listed.


                      Sounds like cutting down on production costs, don’t you agree? Or maybe, going by your arguments of ‘consistency’ you’d love a world where ‘cold stored’ apples had apple flavourings or consistency regulators applied after some fashion or other to provide that all elusive consistency.

                      Now granted. At least Fonterra is listing that it adds water. But you know what? When I’m buying butter, I should be buying just that. Butter. Not some fucking watered down product.

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      You’re confusing two different things, Bill. One is the natural composition of butter, and the second is the British standard for labelling (which is actually an EU requirement).

                      Water is a natural constituent of butter. You cannot determine in a finished product whether water has been added to the product during the manufacturing process or was a natural constituent of the ingredient (ie, water as a component of the milk). There is no standard moisture content for NZ butter.

                      When Mainland says its spreadable butter has no additives, it means a range of stabilisers (although salt is a stabliser) and agents, it includes a range of acids, crystal inhibitors, other oils with a lower melting point than milk fats and glycerides.

                      Without these additives the only way you can change the hardness and spreadability of butter is either changing the fat composition, which requires crystal fracturing and skimming, or the moisture content. You cannot get butter with no moisture content. That is no longer butter. That is whole milk powder.

                      How many times do I have to repeat this. Butter is made up of moisture content (water) and milk fats. If you want the same hardness and spreadability in your butter you need to maintain the same composition of each. That is why they add water to your butter. To make it the way you like it.

                    • Bill

                      This is bloody painful ‘mouse’. Yes, wet stuff like dairy has a natural water content. (sigh) Didn’t claim otherwise.

                      I know I quoted from a labelling regime. That is why I commented that at least Fonterra did label its added water. Interestingly, the link provided a reason as to why water was added….because it can be. The minimum ‘butter standard’ is 16% water…at least in Europe and probably not too different in the N. American market. So production is geared to the minimum standard.

                      And (again) the consistency of the butter has to do with the cooling or crystalisation process of the milkfat. Not any added water. And using the Ammix process, high melting point triglycerides (up to +40 degrees C.) and low melting point triglycerides (as low as -40 degrees C.) can be ‘isolated’ to alter the composition and ‘character’ of the finished product…meaning consistency can be achieved over the seasons if that is the aim… or to manufacture various spreadable products or whatever else.

                      Adding water is simply adulteration. It adds nothing to the properties of the final product, but ‘makes it go further’ (not to be confused with ‘spreadability’) and therefore more profitable. Y’know, if the US standard is 20% water, then hell, take that naturally occurring 14% water content (or whatever it might be) and pump away boys (take out the EEC stuff at 16% and carry on for the rest)

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      If this conversation is tiring for you Bill it’s because you’re having to learn some things. It’s good that you’ve gone away and read about pasteurisation and crystallisation processes. It is true you can alter the hardness of butter (actually only quite marginally) by changing the composition of the milk fats. But just think. What does that involve? More cost in processing. What does that mean to the consumer? More expensive butter for you.

                      The milk fat content versus moisture content of butter for a given product remains very constant seasonally. Why? Because in a given herd the seasonal variation in the milk fat constituents doesn’t significantly change. Modern dairying, with additives and supplements throughout the year to maintain milk solid levels, contribute to a much more stable distribution of milk fats.

                      Your question again, why is water added to butter? Because it’s the least expensive way of turning out a product that consumers want ie spreadable butter. It isn’t used just as a bulking agent.

                      You might want your butter without “water added”, or with a lower moisture content. That’s your choice. If you really are determined to have this then go and buy a cow, reduce the moisture content in her feed (but not so much that she dehydrates), reduce the moisture during your manufacturing process, and then turn out the kind of really hard butter that you really like. You will probably end up with milk powder, and it will be much more expensive than settling for what everyone else wants, but at least you will be happy.

                      Or if you are not happy with the moisture content in your butter, then go and buy a block and clarify it.

                    • Bill

                      Ah mouse. I do hope you were getting remunerated for creating spin. You say your a microbiologist in the food industry. I could reasonably surmise that it’s in the dairy sector, but it doesn’t matter….just idle speculation

                      On the basis that you know what’s what (being a microbiologist who doesn’t stoop to the level of google and all) you have thrown out a remarkable number of red herrings today.

                      But I’ve benefitted from having to search stuff out. So thanks.

                      First you said water was added to butter to make it spread easier. And that was a false assertion. You said that water aided spreadability by having a lower melting point that milk fats. Another false assertion. You said water aided in the production of a consistent product. Another false assertion.

                      I’m just amused that you hang on to the ‘adding water in butter is a necessary and good thing’ spin. From everything I’ve read….and the sources have been quality ones…that just ain’t true.

                      I guess it’s just as well I didn’t ask why the butter ingredients states that it contains ‘milk products’ and what ‘milk products’ they might possibly be referring to that aren’t just cream. ( Shoal after shoal after shoal of wee red herrings would go swimming through the ether on that one I’ll bet) Coz that’s one of the things about that Ammix process, innit? You can throw in all manner of dairy by-products and create novel end products that you just couldn’t do with the ‘old’ Fritz process …and still call them by their traditional names.

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Bill, no I don’t work in the dairy industry now. It’s no conspiracy. I have in the past (as have most microbiologists working long term in the food industry). I work for a food manufacturer which has dairy products in its ingredients.

                      I didn’t describe water’s melting point, because water doesn’t have a melting point. Water is a liquid in its normal state. Because water is a liquid state, if you add it to butter it will lower the melting point of butter. This aids spreadability. I don’t know how many times you have to read this to understand.

                      I don’t know whether you’re deliberately or basically stupid. Water does aid spreadability, and it does have a lower melting point than milk fats. While it is true that you can fracture the crystals of some milk fats that are still in their solid state at below zero, these milk fats are not a significant component of skimmed cream. Go and do an experiment of your own. Get a bucket, milk a cow, skim the cream off and then start fracturing it. See how much fat you can fracture at zero degrees. The answer will be none, because you will be left milk that is almost entirely fat-free. But if you do find any crystals, see how long you can preserve those crystals other than in a deep freezer. And then see how you can make butter in commercial quantities from it.

                      Adding water isn’t a necessary thing. There are other ways you can lower the melting point of butter, by adding either milk or other oils. Canola and milk are normally added to spreadable butter.

                      If you are suggesting that when a butter producer lists “other milk products” to the ingredients, they mean “water”, then you are wrong. It will mean other milk proteins, or distilled milk fats or cultures to improve finishing. This is almost always for flavouring or preservative reasons.

                      You seem to want food producers to add additional manufacturing processes without resorting to that well-known but dangerous food contaminant, H2O.

                    • lprent []

                      Of course water does have a melting point.

                      0C is a melting point of water under sealevel air pressure and gravity. Of course it isn’t that useful for what you are talking about. 😈

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Mr Prentice, that is correct, but superionic H2O is not a common ingredient in butter!

                    • Bill

                      About 30% of milk fats have a melting point below 20 degrees C. and just under 10% a melting point below 0 degreesC….so that’s a fair proportion of fats with fairly low melting points. And that’s before any natural water content is factored in

                      And crystalisation of the fats has a lot…almost everything… to do with ‘spreadability’. I believe the example is butter that has melted and then put back in the fridge will usually be more solid than the original block of butter due to the different rate of crystalisation affecting the configuration or arrangement of different fat molecules.

                      But put all that aside again…it’s an aside to an aside and you haven’t provided any backup material for your argument that water is a necessary and desirable additive…an argument that no literature I’ve read supports. And you saying the same thing over and over in spite of authoritative links to the contrary and not producing a single link to back your assertions doesn’t make me thick or slow. It just makes you repetitive.

                      Butter is apparently adulterated with water simply because manufacturers can get away with it under legislation that deems butter must have no more than 16% water content and any more would necessitate them calling it a spread of some description (at least within the EEC).

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Bill, there are only two fractionating plants in NZ. Cream for butter does not go through an advanced fractionating process. Why? Because it would double the cost of butter.

                      When consumers buy butter they deserve to know the content of milk fats and moisture content, along with energy levels, saturated and unsaturated fats and protein contents. For a milk company to be able to regulate this, because “cream” actually means a lot of different things with different levels of milk fats, they can really only adjust the moisture content to keep each batch of butter consistent. Any other option is too expensive. I didn’t say that butter is a “necessary and desirable” additive. It is simply a non-harmful and efficient one. If you don’t have a consistent moisture to milk fat ratio you can’t have a reliable consumer labelling regime, because unless you very tightly control the type of cream used, every batch of butter would be different.

                      Let’s take a real-life example of why milk fats to moisture contents are important. Let’s say you’re a biscuit manufacturer. Your butter supplier can’t promise you that the butter contains 80% milk fats, 18% moisture and 2% salt. Instead they tell you it’s 98% cream and 2% salt. So you do tests and you find it’s 80% milk fats and formulate your biscuit recipes accordingly.

                      Two months down the track, a major supermarket chain in Australia calls you and says that your biscuits are breaking and the chocolate is blooming. There could be lots of reasons for this: the shipping might not have been adequately refrigerated, your haulage company in Oz or NZ might have been knocking the container around. Perhaps the supermarket shoppers were being reckless with only your biscuits. Somewhere in your supply chain there is a problem. Whatever the reason your customer isn’t going to pay the $1 million invoice for the biscuits you manufactured for them two months ago.

                      Eventually you find after investigating every step in the supply chain that it is a manufacturing fault. Your butter supplier supplied you with butter made from 98% cream and 2%. Although there was no problem in your factory, it was the butter that had a 5% increased moisture content that is causing your biscuits to break and chocolate to bloom. Your biscuits now have lower levels of saturated fats, protein, and kilojoule ratings than you printed on each pack, but consumers are bringing them back to the supermarket for refunds because they’re broken and they don’t like the white specks that appear on the chocolate.

                      All because you think it’s dangerous to use H2O to regulate the moisture to milk fat content in butter.

                      Very stupid idea to put words into a poster’s mouth. I wouldn’t go making a habit of it. At no point was it claimed that adding water as an extra ingredient to butter was ‘dangerous’. And as has been said over and over from information gleaned for NZ Dairy Research, different hardnesses of butter and so on are obtained by manipulating the fats present; NOT by adding water. The only reasonable conclusion is that water is added because the definition of butter allows for a 16% water content and manufacturers are able to use that definition to cut the amount and therefore costs of their raw materials. Bill

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      I wasn’t putting words in your mouth Bill, any more than you putting words in my mouth when you talked about putting water in butter is “good” or “necessary”, neither of which I said.

                      You also speculated that I worked for the dairy industry. Again wrong.

                      Hardness of butter can be manipulated by altering the distribution of fats, but it isn’t, because the extra processing required would double the cost of butter to the consumer. Instead water is used, because it doesn’t change the nutritional qualities of butter (ie, moisture to butter fat content).

                      Why don’t you call Fonterra and ask them. They will give you the same answer I’ve given you a dozen times here. No doubt your thick head will still accuse them of a big conspiracy because you’re too ignorant to change a conclusion once you’ve seen the available scientific evidence. Which is why you shouldn’t comment on science. You don’t understand the scientific method.

                    • Bill

                      I wasn’t putting words in your mouth Bill, any more than you putting words in my mouth when you talked about putting water in butter is “good” or “necessary”, neither of which I said.

                      Did I use quotation marks on my interpretation of what you were saying. No.
                      Is that putting ‘words in someone’s mouth’? No.
                      Did you say water was added to butter to make it more spreadable? And did you further say that “Water content is everything to do with spreadability”? Yes. (In other words, that it was a necessary additive in normal butter so it could be spread and that it meant consistency across batches and seasons)

                      Did you use quotation marks to claim I’d said water was a dangerous additive? Yes.
                      Is that putting words in someone’s mouth’? Yes.

                      You also speculated that I worked for the dairy industry. Again wrong.

                      You offered up this – “I’m a microbiologist working in the food manufacturing industry, Bill.”

                      I responded – “I could reasonably surmise that it’s in the dairy sector, but it doesn’t matter….just idle speculation”

                      To which you replied – “And Bill, no I don’t work in the dairy industry now. It’s no conspiracy. I have in the past (as have most microbiologists working long term in the food industry). I work for a food manufacturer which has dairy products in its ingredients”

                      Hardness of butter can be manipulated by altering the distribution of fats, but it isn’t, because the extra processing required would double the cost of butter to the consumer. Instead water is used, because it doesn’t change the nutritional qualities of butter (ie, moisture to butter fat content).

                      I’d have thought that introducing extra water would very much alter the moisture to butter fat content. But even putting that aside, what you are saying is plain wrong.

                      The Ammex process used in NZ ( unlike the Fritz process that is also used) allows for greater manipulation of the ratios between different milk fats as well as better control over the crystallisation process and so produces better of differing consistency. It also allows milk by-products to be recycled into the production process, hence the labelling stating that butter (ingredients – cream, water, salt) also contains ‘milk products’…

                      Why don’t you call Fonterra and ask them. They will give you the same answer I’ve given you a dozen times here. No doubt your thick head will still accuse them of a big conspiracy because you’re too ignorant to change a conclusion once you’ve seen the available scientific evidence. Which is why you shouldn’t comment on science. You don’t understand the scientific method.

                      There has been absolutely no accusation of conspiracy. None whatsoever. And it is the scientific evidence (as supplied on line by NZ Dairy Research Institute) that my arguments are based on.

                      Those references (and I notice you don’t dispute them at all or offer counter references) are quite explicit on the process that allows for softer/harder butters to be manufactured. No additional water is used. None.

                      And in fact, adding water would not get around the problem of different rates of crystallisation leading to different configuration in the fat molecules resulting in harder or softer butter. (the example I gave of the melted butter being re-refrigerated and being harder than the original block of butter was intended to illustrate that point.)

                      And so we arrive at the point where the only reasonable explanation for water being added to the product is to ‘make it go further’…meaning that we are paying top dollar for inferior …or literally watered down…product. And that’s before we consider the additional ‘milk products’ that the wrapper states is contained in butter.

                      Is that a conspiracy? No. It’s all out there in ‘black and white’ on Fonterra’s packaging.

                • freedom

                  “milk fat content of standard butter hasn’t changed in NZ or Britain since pasteurisation.”
                  complete horsepucky.
                  i suppose you also believe the bulk of our daily milk supply is not reconstituted from powder? if you do i challenge you to open a litre of generic milk and a litre of real milk. Then close them and put them back in the fridge for four or five days. The swollen container full of opaque green liquid with the strange yellow-white sediment, that’s your Fonterra for ya. I dare you to give it a shake, put it in a glass and drink.

                  The other bottle, you can give a little shake, and happily chugalug because it is, was and remains to be , milk!

                  • Mouse Trawler

                    I don’t understand your question, freedom. Are you comparing a litre of unpasteurised, whole milk to a litre of branded milk? I wouldn’t advise drinking either. The bacteria content in unpasteurised milk left unsealed at room temperature after five days would be extremely dangerous.

                    • felix

                      Are you being deliberately obtuse or are you not reading the comments at all?

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Sorry Felix you’re right I didn’t answer whether NZ milk domestic supply is reconstituted from powder. The answer is, no it isn’t. Much of the milk solids are removed from standard milk for other dairy products. Some additional dairy fats are added back in but it isn’t reconstituted from powder. Reconstituting from powder required reducing it to powder in the first place. It’s an expensive process and the only reason you would use it is if you have a distributed supply chain (ie international transport) where the extra costs of reduction to milk powder, then remixing and bottling are outweighed by freight costs (bottled milk is much heavier than milk powder).

                      There isn’t any point in reducing to milk powder in NZ since you’re only transporting from one side of the factory to the other for bottling and distribution.

                    • felix

                      I didn’t ask, but fascinating nonetheless.

                      Why do you keep your fridge at room temperature? That makes it a very expensive cupboard.

                  • Mouse Trawler

                    Felix I was responding to freedom saying that milk sold in bottles is reconstituted from milk powder in NZ, about which he is wrong and I was explaining why.

                    I incorrectly read his comparisons as meaning he would keep both “real milk” (I suppose he means unpasteurised whole milk straight from the cow) versus Fonterra bottled milk out of the fridge for four or five days. Exposing both to air will introduce some contaminants, but there is no reason that “fonterra” milk should spoil.

                    Unpasteurised milk has a much shorter shelf life. The fats in whole unpasteurised milk will separate over a few days but won’t spoil. Most of the fats of fonterra milk have been removed. Separation of fats from other liquids doesn’t mean spoilage. It’s the same thing when your vinaigrette separates in a bottle. It only needs a shake to emulsify again.

                    • felix

                      I’d heard the “milk is all made from powder” theory before but never given it much credence for the simple reason that it doesn’t taste like it’s made from powder.

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Your experience of milk made from milk powder is probably low quantities of powder to water. It depends on the formula. Modern spray-drying techniques don’t caramelise the remaining powder and only remove the water. The richness of how the reconstituted milk tastes depends on how much powder you add to it. If you take a glass of milk made from powder, and a normal glass of milk, with the same quantities of milk fats in each, you won’t taste the difference.

                    • freedom

                      You say you are a scientist working in the food industry so i give credit that your statement is based on more factual evidence than i have. One thing i always can be counted on is to accept and admit when my comments or beliefs are shown to be wrong, so i accept your assertion that processed milk may not be reconstituted from powder.

                      My assertion is merely based on consistent real life observation of the ever degrading quality of the milk that is supplied to New Zealand and the oddly identical properties displayed by milk that i have reconstituted from powder.

                      Some wierdos call it the scientific method. Experiment, result experiment result you know the drill. When you consistently get the same results that generally leads to the development of a theory and mine is simply stating that the white stuff NZ is being charged almost $3 a litre for, is a long long way from what came out of the cow.

                    • Mouse Trawler

                      Hi Freedom, yes there is a difference between the milk sold in supermarkets now and what you got delivered on your doorstep in the glass bottles 30 years ago. The main issue is choice. Silvertop milk thirty years ago was just pasteurised. Not even homogenised. Homogenised was available, but skim milk was a speciality. Skim milk began as a byproduct of removal of casein and fats for creams. You couldn’t buy calcium-enriched milk. And the fat contents in the limited varieties available were not consistent. You couldn’t have a consistent food labelling regime because the fat contents in a single pint of the same variety could change by 10% from week to week.

                      The cheese industry in NZ was primitive. If you went to the supermarket and bought anything other than colby or tasty, your neighbours looked at you funny. Acidopholous yoghurt wasn’t available on the shelves. Creme fraiche was something you had to travel 20,000 kilometres to eat. Sour cream was a fancy and innovative restaurant side dish.

        • Huginn

          So . . . . the dairy industry adds water to butter so that it can make a profit from supplying a consistent product to industrialised food manufacturers. And the cunning bastards have developed a product with even more water in it which they sell to people like me as special ‘spreadable’ butter to stop us moving to margarine because it’s easier to spread. Who would have thought it.

          Thanks for the explanation, Mouse. It sounds plausible to me.

          Perhaps now we can take some time to think about the amalgamation of dairy farms into larger and larger concerns and the increased corporate ownership of these farms. Or the influence of the dairy sector on the exchange rate and whether it strangling the rest of the productive sector.

  2. freedom 2

    the really interesting part of this story is how stuff closed comments within two hours of the article being posted. Perhaps they realised that this story only highlights the very real desperation many families are facing and the untenable positition the Dairy industry are in.
    $2.96 a litre of standard milk. ? ? ?

  3. Richard 3

    Clearly we should ban dairy exports and ride the resulting wave of prosperity.

    Or, we could just use milk powder and enjoy living in a country that actually has something to sell to the world.

    • freedom 3.1

      or, Fonterra could act with a social conscience instead of rabid commercial venality and have a domestic market that is fair and equitable to the contribution made by all NZ. I refer to the sacrifice of Aotearoa itself, as we witness the polluting of our waterways and the now-hardwired destruction of arable land to grow dairy cows.

    • Bill 3.2

      Clearly Richard, your mother named you correctly.

    • Colonial Viper 3.3

      Richard did you hear the one about not confirming to others how much of a fool you are?

      • Rusty Shackleford 3.3.1

        Classic thestandard.org.nz. Someone says something that doesn’t jive with the hive mind. A half dozen idjits jump in and call the commentor names. No attempt at debunking or dispelling the original comment. Classic stuff.

  4. Rob A 4

    For a start, milk is about 90% water, cream about 60%, so they may not actually be adding it at all. If they are are it could be one of three reasons that I can think of. It’s been a while since I had much to do with butter

    Some of the older Butter plants struggle if the fat content is too high (something to do with the type of seperators), because the skim usually goes to low fat products you want to get as much fat out of it as possible, thus they’ll water down the cream to make the fat easier to process

    It could also be part of standardising, to ensure a consistant product most dairy products are broken down and put back to together in desired compositions depending on what is being made. Sometimes this requires an ingredient which is typically mixed with water and added in.

    Could also be part of getting the Free Fatty Acids down. Many plants add a type of food grade caustic which is mixed with water. But not too many plants do this anymore and I haven’t heard of a butter plant doing it in years. It’s mostly done with other fat products like AMF, but this can be processed into butter later.

  5. ad 5

    The is one of the most absurd posts I have ever read. Dairy is the only industry at which we are in the top three in the world. Most of the milk produced here is exported.

    About one tax dollar in every five comes from dairy. Remember that the next time you use any public service at all.

    It’s not going to get cheaper, and you don’t have a right to it. There will never be a separate price for New Zealanders distinct from the global price – forget it.

    Fonterra in particular should be given a bit of credit on a couple of fronts as well. They are introducing free milk to schoolchildren. And they are enforcing the Clean Streams Accord to stop foarmers who are dirtying streams from supplying milk to them, by the end of this calendar year. Silver Fern Farms isn’t proposing anything like that.

    There is no doubt that the negative environmental impact is continuing to get worse in New Zealand. The regulatory enforcement weakness is the number one reasons in my view to abolish New Zealand’s Regional Councils altogether.

    But what I would hate to hear is that the people complaining on this site about dairy manufacturing aren’t exporters themselves who have risked their own capital to make exports happen. Would certainly hate to hear bleating from organicist virtuous peasants with Good Magazine subscriptions who in fact do nothing except complaniing about how impure everything is, after they attend to their little hive of backyard bees.

    [lprent: Like the commentators, there is a huge diversity of opinion amongst authors as well. The social design on the site was meant to make that happen.

    For instance I have worked only in companies that are high-tech exporters for the last couple of decades. I have a significantly different viewpoint to most of the other authors as they have between each other. Other authors spend most of their time in corporates, unions, for themselves, in central government, local government, on social benefits, volunteer work, bringing up kids, being a student, educating students, research, etc… And that is just what I know about them (and I don’t know quite a few of the authors). The only thing the authors tend to agree on is the general approach that is stated in the about and that they like writing here. There are 30+ people with authoring rights on this site.

    Don’t expect that you’re likely to agree with everything that is written as a post. The site is here to facilitate argument between different parts of society in way that is impossible in broadcast media. Expect to find posts that you think are silly. Most of the time it just means that either you are short of information or the other person is. In my opinion usually both are because obviously I am the font of ALL wisdom :twisted:. Just disagree and express why (as you did).

    Don’t bother attacking the site, its policies, or who the authors chose to allow to post here because all that does is to get my moderating attention focused on you and pointing to the about and the policy and wondering if you’re trying to tell us what to do. ]

    • Bill 5.1

      So, it’s absurd to highlight the fact that people are stealing milk because they can’t afford it… in a country that produces billions of liters per year? O-ka-ay. See, I’d have thought the absurdity (if that’s the appropriate expression) was New Zealander’s being reduced to thieving fucking milk. But there you go. That’s just me I guess.

      By the way, I don’t know which post you read that was commenting on environmental impacts etc, but it wasn’t this one.

      • infused 5.1.1

        You don’t *need* milk.

        • Bill

          You’re point being?

          • infused

            Point being that people should stop whining about it.

          • Colonial Viper

            Infused is pointing out the new National Party line.

            Poor people and beneficiaries do not deserve milk in NZ, only rich New Zealanders do.

            Must be part of National’s “Brighter Future”.

            • Bill

              I’m all for it!

              Now I can throw away my bed….or even better become homeless and sleep in doorways. Pretty sure I don’t *need* that little finger on my left hand either.

              And don’t you allow me to catch myself complaining about any of it either.

              It’s the new ‘leaner than lean’ and ‘meaner than mean’ utopia we’ve been a-searching for. Thanks infused! Going to get my boots on now and get right down to it…Or should I take my boots off? Hell. I don’t *need* boots! This is going to be fantastic!

              • ad

                Since milk will keep getting more expensive both in its traded price and within New Zealand, we are definitely faced with fewer being able to afford it. So how to afford the price of milk?

                This country has fewer and fewer decent sized firms headquartered here, and hence fewer and fewer careers wroth going for, which in no small part causes us to be less and less able to afford more expensive food items.

                I don’t think central government has the power any longer to effect change on the whole of the export sector – so it needs to concentrate on a few (rather than none). In policy terms, that really is utopia for a few.

                By failing to diversify meaninfully for the last 100 years, New Zealand has to back its pastoral winners. At least that industry would then remain wealthy.

                That’s the cruel alternative to laissez-faire – and will not help the poor. I am definitely not saying I like this alternative much either.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  So, according to you, we need to kiss corporate arse more than we do now?

                • Bill

                  This country has fewer and fewer decent sized firms headquartered here, and hence fewer and fewer careers wroth going for, which in no small part causes us to be less and less able to afford more expensive food items.

                  We’re talking milk here. Not caviar or Moet et Chandon. You saying you need a decent career to buy a pinta? A simple half decent wage and reasonable welfare entitlements should, surely, allow people to buy milk. And if milk is priced beyond the means of those on welfare entitlements or in lowly paid jobs, then isn’t that an indictment on NZ? Again. This is milk we are talking about. It’s a basic foodstuff in NZ. Or was a basic food stuff in NZ. Billions of liters are produced every year. But people are having to steal it.

                  And what’s with the reductionist thinking that would have us…or, more precisely, the government… ‘backing a pastoral winner’ so that ‘that industry would then remain wealthy’? A wealthy industry?! Who serves what and why, in that world view? Is it fine by you if we serve industrial ‘needs’ rather than industry serving ours? Fuck ‘wealthy industry’. The entirety of any industry’s ‘wealth’ is wages that were stolen to feed profit. (And before anyone genuflects, by profit I mean the net amount left over when all overheads and reinvestment in plant etc have been subtracted)

                  • ad

                    We need to co-opt more industry into central government policy (a Left government of course). And yes that means strapping on the Presidential kneepads a lot more. That is a mucky business. The current alternative is to let things drift as they are with no effective economic development policy at all.

                    Government needs to really engage with business, take risks, take shareholdings, and accept sometimes that will mean losing taxpayer money. Risk and engage together is all we can do in a place with so little public or provate capital.

                    Milk may be a basic foodstuff, but we really are getting poorer and less equal at a fair old rate of knots. 2 children and 2 adults @ 1 litre each per week @$5 for 2 litres = $10
                    Cheese is about $10 a kilo.
                    This is not going to get cheaper, and the government is not gong to do anything about it. Could it really do anything?

                    And yes, we really really do need wealthy industries, filled with wealthy workers. God even the Greens said, with admirable definitional slippage “For a Richer New Zealand”.

                    • The Baron

                      This is the most awesome maths I have ever seen: “2 children and 2 adults @ 1 litre each per week @$5 for 2 litres = $10”

                      And the left says we don’t need national standards in numeracy. LOLZ.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Oh lol Baron, 2+2 @ 1L each = 4L. 2L = $5, therefore 4L = $10.


                    • The Baron

                      Yes, I will eat that one, along with a massive slice of humble pie. Thanks KTH and apologies ad.

                    • Bill

                      A successful industry does not to be a wealthy one, ie a highly profitable one. The only reason we get into that sad state of affairs is because when the market dictates trade etc, the weaker will be consumed by the stronger…ie, the more profitable will buy out or ‘sink’ the less profitable.

                      And so everyone races for ‘growth’ to keep from being the smallest fish in the pond. And the shit builds up…

                      As for central government dictating policy…nah. I’d much rather economic power was vested in the community and citizenry through worker councils and community/consumer councils. A flattening and decentralising of the state…facillitated by a left wing government, of course.

                      But it ain’t going to happen any time soon and it will probably come down to us (people) leading the way with government and business being dragged screaming and kicking (when they aren’t teargassing, imprisoning or shooting us).

                • Colonial Viper

                  Since milk will keep getting more expensive both in its traded price and within New Zealand, we are definitely faced with fewer being able to afford it. So how to afford the price of milk?

                  yeah this will happen if we keep believing in bullshit free market economics.

                  “Free” for whom? Not for you or I wanting to buy milk in the ‘land of plenty’.

                  There’s a real easy solution to this – 2% of all milk produced has to be given to the Government free of charge for distribution to schools and community groups.

    • Clashman 5.2

      “There will never be a separate price for New Zealanders distinct from the global price – forget it.”
      There is when they can “justify” charging us more that the global price or hadnt you noticed. (not talking dairy specifically…..yet)

    • ad 5.3

      No, I am not attacking your site or its policies.
      Thanks for the clarification.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.4

      The regulatory enforcement weakness is the number one reasons in my view to abolish New Zealand’s Regional Councils altogether.

      That’s not a reason to get rid of the councils but it is a reason to strengthen the legislation and enforcement of that legislation. In other words, strengthen the councils.

      • ad 5.4.1

        I don’t think it’s the legislation itself that’s the problem – it’s the lack of enforcement staff, gathering evidence, putting cases up that convince the lawyers to take the cases, and insufficient legal in-house counsel.

        Why else would we now have a volunteer base formed in the last month to canoe up rivers with cameras, just to shame those unfenced dairy farmers?

        Regional Councils with dairy-dominated economies have had 20 years since the 1989 reforms to get a handle on this, and have utterly failed in so many areas of New Zealand. Time for a completely fresh approach.

        • Bill

          Time for a completely fresh approach.

          I agree. How about we say “sod the councils…and their inevitable ‘old boy’ networks” and have direct community input from any person or people within a community likely to be affected by any particular dairy development…input being proportional to the extent they are likely to be affected… and put the onus on business to convince those people to give the ‘go ahead’ for any development.

          And if the community says “No”, then that’s it.

          My understanding is that some such mechanism operates in Japan with regards nuclear power station (re) start-ups. So, no reason why such democratic mechanisms can’t be applied to dairy…or/and other areas of development.

          • ad

            There is a really absent feedback mechanism in local gvoernment for what you are talking about. The RMA Consenting process really leaves miseably small room for effective monitoring of effects. It sure doesn’t do much for small but cumulative effects that build up over time. And really it’s opretty hard for communitarian input to successfully oppose a well-funded proposition.

            I could imagine robotic monitors placed every 500 metres on every dairy-effected river in New Zelanad, feeding live datasets into a centralised New Zealand river regulator, and as soon as (say) nitrogen hit a specific level (similar to radiation around a nuclear plant), production upriver had to cease until the level was brought back down.

            And make Fonterra pay for it out of the price to farmers, to focus everyone’s mind.

  6. Reagan Cline 6

    Cows milk is perfectly suited to calves (they evolvesd exactly in tandem).

    Calves and human beings are different in their biology.

    Therefore what is suitable biologically for calves is unlikely to be suitable for humans.

    And could be detrimental because cows milk includes growth factors and hormones, which are possible detrimental to human health (let alone the lipids)

    Therefore we should limit or even stop our use of cows milk and products.

    There is epidemiological evidence that dairy food consumption is linked in some way with higher prevalence of bowel cancer and atherosclerosis – big killers in NZ.

    • Ad 6.1

      If New Zealanders limited their fresh milk intake to goats’ milk, and consumed only bone-fortifying products such as Anlene, we would be better off as a nation – the farmers would get more production diverted to exports, and of course we would all have to foreswear ice-cream (which I am sure would be good for us in the long run) to get a little less fat.

      The more China and India see how premium our products are, the more we continue to generate a margin higher than the quoted commodity price. That is what we all need to aim for.

  7. vto 7

    I think everybody, and that means everybody, milkers and milkees, everybody, has forgotten completely and utterly and totally that every single boom ever has come to an end.

    And that it always easy to note when a boom is at its peak because everybody forgets that it will come to an end like every other one and thinks that “this time its different”

    It is so very consistent and repeating history.

    • felix 7.1

      This has occurred to me too v.

      Eggs and baskets and that.

      • Ad 7.1.1

        It has been this way in New Zealand since the 1870s and there is no political party currently in Parliament proposing a policy programme that’s anything different.

        Labour’s Growth and Innovation Framework from 1999 is the closest we have got in the last thirty years to promoting clusters of industries supplementing pastoral sector exports e.g. film production. Gone now.

        The New Zealand Institute used to complain a bit on these lines as well. Also gone.

        And no hope of anything remotely similar coming back until 2014.

        Maybe it’s time for one.

  8. Ad 8

    It has been this way in New Zealand since the 1870s (apart from Labour’s great import substitution era) and there is no political party currently in Parliament proposing a policy programme that’s anything different.

    Labour’s Growth and Innovation Framework from 1999 is the closest we have got in the last thirty years to promoting clusters of industries supplementing pastoral sector exports e.g. film production. Gone now.

    The New Zealand Institute used to complain a bit on these lines as well. Also gone.

    And no hope of anything remotely similar coming back until 2014.

    Maybe it’s time for one.

  9. Jimmie 9

    I can’t actually see the point of this post. Somehow because two nohopers (allegedly) decided to steal milk from early morning deliveries somehow this proves that Fonterra is ripping everyone off.

    Umm hello – just because losers steal cars every day does this mean the price of cars are too high?

    Also around 85%-90% of NZ milk production is exported so not really relevant.

    Also for all the Fonterra denigraters’ the milk payments they make pays for a lot of jobs in associated industries -many many contractors have staff who would be out of a job with out the dairy $$ rolling in.

    Wait until there is a payout drop (quite possible) there will be a lot of pain felt right through many provincial towns.

    If ya can’t beat ’em join ’em. There are plenty of dairy jobs every year – get a job, learn the ropes, save some $$ and go sharemilking, save up for 15-20 years and buy ya self a bit of dirt.

    It is a very satisfying occupation – working the soil/animals and the weather to make a crust.
    Couldn’t be better.

  10. Jenny 10

    Fonterra sell milk in New Zealand at the prices that they can fetch for it overseas. Selling milk here means less milk available for them to sell into their most profitable markets.

    It is actually lucky that we get any milk at all.

  11. DavidW 11

    Jimmie,(#9) it won’t work. Just look at the stats – we have how many on the unemployment benefit? (100,000?) and yet we are importing hundreds of Philipino labourers to work on dairy farms because no-one wants a job.
    Either the unemployments stats are BS or the benefit system is fatally flawed. You pick.

  12. tjhob 12

    Nah – it’s because New Zealander’s generally don’t want to work the necessary hours in the dairy industry – we are cups on at 4.00am at peak which means getting the cows at 3.00 and getting up at 2.30am with a finish at 5.30pm (+ 4 hrly calving checks in spring) Way easier to sit on ACC on the dole – trust me it’s hard to get (NZ) people to fill roles even in a recession.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Maybe you should pay them more than $14.50/hr equivalent then.

      And time and a half after 50 hours work per week would be fair.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        Well, tjohb? Or do you prefer to pay cheaper wages to Filipinos, than to New Zealanders?

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