Hekken DL; Tunick MH; Ren DX; Tomasula PM. - - J Dairy Sci 2017; 100(8): 6042-52

Comparing the effect of homogenization and heat processing on the properties and in vitro digestion of milk from organic and conventional dairy herds

ABSTRACT We compared the effects of homogenization and heat processing on the chemical and in vitro digestion traits of milk from organic and conventional herds. Raw milk from organic (>50% of dry matter intake from pasture) and conventional (no access to pasture) farms were adjusted to commercial whole and nonfat milk fat standards, and processed with or without homogenization, and with high-temperature-short-time or UHT pasteurization. The milk then underwent in vitro gastrointestinal digestion. Comparison of milk from organic and conventional herds showed that the milks responded to processing in similar ways. General composition was the same among the whole milk samples and among the nonfat milk samples. Protein profiles were similar, with intact caseins and whey proteins predominant and only minor amounts of peptides. Whole milk samples from grazing cows contained higher levels of α-linolenic (C18:3), vaccenic (C18:1 trans), and conjugated linoleic acids, and lower levels of palmitic (C16:0) and stearic (C18:0) acids than samples from nongrazing cows. Processing had no effect on conjugated linoleic acid and linolenic acid levels in milk, although homogenization resulted in higher levels of C8 to C14 saturated fatty acids. Of the 9 volatile compounds evaluated, milk from grazing cows contained lower levels of 2-butanone than milk from nongrazing cows, and milk from both farms showed spikes for heptanal in UHT samples and spikes for butanoic, octanoic, nonanoic, and N-decanoic acids in homogenized samples. At the start of in vitro digestion, nonfat raw and pasteurized milk samples formed the largest acid clots, and organic milk clots were larger than conventional milk clots; UHT whole milk formed the smallest clots. Milk digests from grazing cows had lower levels of free fatty acids than digests from nongrazing cows. In vitro proteolysis was similar in milk from both farms and resulted in 85 to 95% digestibility. Overall, milk from organic/grass-fed and conventional herds responded in similar ways to typical homogenization and heat processing used in United States dairy plants and showed only minor differences in chemical traits and in vitro digestion. Findings from this research enhance our knowledge of the effect of processing on the quality traits and digestibility of milk from organic/pasture-fed and confined conventional herds and will help health-conscious consumers make informed decisions about dairy selections.

Key words: milk organic processing in vitro digestion