IF you have been anywhere near a TV in recent weeks — and who hasn’t with the Olympics going on — you can’t have missed the advertisement for Pura Milk, spruiking its permeate-free credentials.
For the record, the bloke in the ad is not a farmer but a professional actor.
A production crew of about 35 took three days to shoot the 30-second production at who-knows-what expense.
And that’s before the cost of the prime air-time.
It was paid for, of course, by Lion Foods, owner of Pura Milk.
The same Japanese-owned company that is facing an independent arbitrator to settle a milk price dispute with suppliers facing drastic cuts.
Make of this what you will, but that’s not the point I want to make.
This advertisement is a marketing gimmick; a deception misleading a public largely not equipped to know they are being misinformed.
Most people had never heard of permeate until this campaign came along, let alone understood anything about it.
When this ad tells them most milk is “diluted with a by-product called permeate” they have no reason to question what is being said.
They will probably assume this is a bad thing.
So let’s get a few things straight.
Permeate is not a by-product. Everything in permeate came out of the cow as part of the original milk.
Permeate is created from the original milk during processing to produce the many standardised varieties of milk you find in the supermarket — low-fat, non-fat, full-cream, high calcium, high protein, lactose-free and whatever.
Cows don’t produce standardised milk.
It varies from cow to cow, breed to breed, farm to farm and across the seasons.
Processors could simply pasteurise what comes in, put it in cartons and sell it like that, but customers would get a very unpredictable product.
Instead, we have the many standardised products.
To standardise milk, processors have to take it apart then put it back together using the appropriate amounts of its various components.
This has happened for decades with the fat content. Cream and the skim milk are recombined to produce the desired product.
This requires nothing more than a simple centrifugal separator.
Technology has moved on. In the past couple of decades great advances have been made in membrane filtration, allowing components to be separated at a molecular level.
This opened up the possibility of standardising milk for other components — protein, lactose, vitamins and minerals — giving us the variety we now have.
When milk goes through membrane filtration, the part that contains the removed lactose, vitamins and minerals is called permeate.
This is mixed back into the milk base to get the required product.
What goes into the carton contains nothing that didn’t come from the cow. Nothing.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, there wasn’t a fuss until Pura started this stupid, deceptive and damaging campaign.
Look at the message this is sending out.
It’s telling the world that most milk is diluted with this dreadful by-product, implying that it’s somehow questionable or substandard.
Not exactly helping the dairy industry is it?
The public, of course, has a right to be informed.
They also have the right to not be misinformed.
So while we’re here, let’s do a little more informing.
Milk produced without the use of permeate can only be standardised for fat content — all those other components will vary because it’s not physically possible to adjust their ratios without using membrane filtration and the resulting permeate. You should know that when choosing your product.