Dairy producers have a long-running problem with milk consumption. Despite clever and effective ads and marketing campaigns, per capita milk consumption has been on a steady downtrend.
One reason, according to grandchildren I have interviewed is the taste. And now new research from Virginia Tech points out one big contributor that problem: milk containers under fluorescent lighting.
Translucent milk jugs like this one allow the intense photo-energy from fluorescent lights to alter molecules like riboflavin, causing the normally slightly sweet taste of freshly processed milk to become "cardboardy", as one researcher put it. Food scientists have known about this for years. It also affects beer which is why most bottles are brown.
But I have some very good news - I think. As retailers are replacing fluorescent lights to cut their energy bills by up to 40%, they will gain a side benefit of less milk taste degradation. And guess light source what they switching to?
Honestly, this research just appeared in the Journal of Dairy Science. I'm really not trying to prolong an argument. And think about what else this means.
It is likely milk will have a longer shelf life even in high density polyethylene - HDPE - containers. Consumers want to see the product, which is why such jugs are popular, but the lower light emissions from LEDs means less photo-degrading energy affects the milk.
I also bet this flavor preserving change will also slow the demand for raw milk avoiding its associated health hazards.
So with any luck Americans will finally start tasting milk as it really is over the next months. That a win-win for the dairy industry, consumers, and LED fans.