Food by VICE

'Single-Origin Milk' Is for People Who Want to Know Their Cows

“One might be creamy and taste like ice cream, while other bottles might be very fresh or sweet,” Matthijs Baan writes.

by Lauren Rothman
Jun 18 2018, 8:11pm

Photo: Matthijs Baan courtesy of Nick van Lanen

In a food climate where the average eater is ever more interested in the provenance of her organic radish or heritage-breed chicken, the term “single origin” has become all the rage. You see it in specialty stores, plastered across fragrant bags of expensive imported coffee beans and in delicate script across bars of pricy hand-molded chocolate bars. Rather than being processed from a mix of beans from all over the world, the term defines coffee or chocolate that comes from a single source, meaning it’s presumably easier to trace its quality or learn its terroir.

Now, taking things a step further—as the Dutch are wont to do—technologists in the Netherlands have created the notion of “single origin” milk. Yes, as in milk that comes from individual, traceable cows.

TOP bv, a food technology service provider, has teamed with Dutch dairy farmer Matthijs Baan to develop a platform that will enable the country’s dairy farmers to bottle milk from specific cows. By the end of the year, customers of a to-be-announced Dutch grocery chain will be able to select milk specifically from “Clara 8” or “Floortje 30.” According to Nick van Lanen, one of the company’s food technologists, customers interested in local, traceable food are the target audience of the single-cow milk.

“We are convinced that there is a market for this type of specialty milk,” he told MUNCHIES.

Lanen said that TOP bv and Baan, the farmer, each came up with the idea independently. Once they got in touch, they decided to collaborate on the project.

In a press release shared on the technology firm’s website, Baan explains that just as wine grapes and coffee beans from different plants each taste different, so, too, does the flavor of milk vary from cow to cow.

“One might be creamy and taste like ice cream, while other bottles might be very fresh or sweet,” he writes.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, the current industrial model for bottling milk is actually quite efficient: large amounts of milk are sourced from many different cows, then pooled, pasteurized, and bottled. Individual dairy farmers might be able to bottle and market small amounts of milk from just one cow, but it would be difficult to scale up this process for wider distribution. That’s where TOP bv comes in.

“Of course the farmer can do everything on his own, but it will take him way too much time to make it a feasible business model,” Lanen said. “By using tech that is able to pasteurize the milk, fill it in the bottles and label it, while also managing data and controlling all of the different parts of the machine, a farmer gains scale and efficacy.”

Other than helping farmers to scale up, TOP bv hopes to benefit the dairy industry in other ways, Lanen noted. Using this technology, he said, can allow farmers to “gain independence from large dairy corporations to which they sell their milk.” In creating a premium product like a single-origin milk, dairy farmers also “add more value to their milk, which means they can ask more for their product and have a more profitable business.”

TOP bv is keeping pretty mum about where the milk will be sold, and in what amounts. But Lanen said he expected the project, once up and running, to expand beyond Netherlandish borders. When that time comes, sign us up for the stuff that tastes like ice cream, please.