02.What to buy
The following models scored the best results in our test.
|What to buy|
|Coles Smart Buy Milk
||$2.17 / 2L|
|Farmdale Fresh Full Cream Milk (ALDI)
||$2.17 / 2L|
|Home Brand Milk
||$2.17 / 2L|
|Farmdale Fresh Light Milk* (ALDI)
||$2.57 / 2L|
|Farmdale Fresh Skim Milk (ALDI)
||$1.68 / 1L|
|Woolworths Fresh Skim Milk
||$1.68 / 1L|
* All the supermarkets have generic brands at similar prices. Farmdale Fresh Light Milk is slightly cheaper and contains significantly higher levels of protein and calcium than the others.
Generic v big brands
For all types of milk, the generic brands stand out as cheapest and, on average, contain much the same levels of protein, fat and calcium as the big brands. Coles Smart Buy Milk and ALDI Farmdale Fresh Full Cream Milk (two of the cheapest milks overall) and IGA Country Grove Milk contain above-average fat; Farmdale Fresh Light Milk and Skim Milk contain above-average calcium.
It’s not surprising the generics now command 43% of the market; ALDI and Woolworths told CHOICE they can sell their generic milk cheaper because there are no marketing costs or other add-ons.
Freedom Foods’ A2 Milk claims to be “rich in the A2 protein” and may “benefit families concerned with the immune function, certain allergies and digestive wellbeing”. The science behind this claim is that beta-casein, the protein that makes up about 80% of the protein in milk, has two forms, A1 and A2, and milk normally contains a mixture of the two forms (all true). And the peptide BCM7 can be released from A1 protein during digestion or food processing (also true).
However, Freedom Foods also claims that BCM7 is “a strong opioid”, and that this “has been shown to directly affect gut processes and mucous production”. It’s also suggested that A2 milk provides levels of protection from autism in children, as well as schizophrenia, diabetes and heart disease.
However, the European Food Safety Authority recently reviewed the science and found no justification for claims about the health risks from BCM7. Food Standards Australia New Zealand is similarly sceptical about the evidence for the claims for A2 milk.
Like other organic foods, organic milk costs more because production costs are greater. It’s produced without the use of pesticides and with higher standards of animal welfare than conventionally produced milk (see Animal Welfare issues, below).
Many brands are produced by smaller independent dairies with only local distribution, so the milk is less likely to have been transported across vast distances. All the organic milk we found was independently certified. On average, the full-cream organic milk we bought contains more fat than conventional milk, and some brands are not homogenised.
Just Organic (ALDI) and You’ll Love Coles Organic milk are relatively cheap, but they are ultrapasteurised to give them an extended use-by date. This means the milk is heated to higher temperatures than in normal pasteurisation. You may detect a slightly “cooked” taste.
Animal welfare issues
Milk production is now much more efficient and mechanised. The number of dairy farms has more than halved in the past 25 years and the average herd size has gone up from 85 cows in 1980 to 215 in 2008. In the same period, the average amount of milk produced per cow per year has gone up from 2848L to 5231L. This increased productivity has been achieved by selective breeding and supplementing the cows’ feed. But according to the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations, the huge scale of milk production has given rise to some animal welfare issues.
To produce milk, a cow must have a calf every year and most of these bobby calves are slaughtered. Current regulations allow for them to be transported on trucks for 18 hours straight, and there’s no requirement for them to be fed for 36 hours. Calves that are kept have their horns or the horn buds removed without anaesthetic or pain relief. Although on the decrease, some farmers still routinely dock the tails of their dairy cows, again without anaesthetic or pain relief. Lameness can be a painful condition for many dairy cows that stand for long periods on the concrete floors of milking sheds.