Does the UK’s love of liquid milk affect compositional content?

Published 16 May 18

We recently looked at how UK milk prices rank on the European stage, and how lower milk solids content contributes to the UK’s performance. The question is, why is UK compositional quality lower?

The clearest difference between the UK and other key milk producing Member States is how much drinking milk we produce – approximately half* of our total milk, compared to 7%-16% in the other countries.

16.05 liquid milk

This disparity is partly a reflection of differences in food culture, with the British enthusiasm for breakfast cereals and tea with milk not matched across the channel. We also haven’t had the drive towards export markets that other nations have focused on for many years.

In general, EU countries with a smaller proportion of milk going into drinking milk tend to have high protein figures, although France is the exception to the rule. As previously seen, although UK fat levels are below some EU nations, it is the lower protein from the UK that is particularly noticeable. In terms of compositional quality, there is no benefit to processors or farmers for delivering higher protein levels in milk destined for the drinking market. While butterfat still has a value due to milk being fat standardised prior to bottling, this is not the case for protein. As a result, liquid contracts tend to focus on volume over solids content, providing fewer opportunities to increase the price paid through better constituents.

On a more positive note, the domestic nature of the liquid milk market means it is not as open to the international commodity markets as other products, and is the main reason why the UK performs better in the EU farmgate league table when overall prices are low.


* Based on assumption of 1.06kg raw milk to produce 1kg drinking milk