Dairy Research

Researching New Ways to Enhance Consumer Confidence in Dairy

Midwest Dairy partners with academia and industry to research new opportunities for flavor, safety and production improvements from grass to glass. Midwest Dairy research utilizes dairy farmer checkoff funds and partner contributions to conduct research and provide support to increase the capabilities of the dairy industry and ensure its future competitiveness.

Research funding has averaged $500,000 over the last 5 years, which is 25% of the total association budget. This, when combined with industry funding, equates to $2,000,000 in research funding each year.

Our Latest Research: Dairy Innovation: Opening New Doors and Markets Across the World

The global demand for dairy products and ingredients has grown steadily, largely due to an insufficient supply in emerging international markets. As dairy consumption continues to grow in these markets, so will the supply needs: It is estimated that by 2020, countries with an insufficient milk supply will need to rely on imports or increase domestic production for the equivalent of 119 million metric tons of milk, a 66 million increase from 2013.1 Because the U.S. dairy industry is one of the largest milk producers in the world, filling this gap provides a great market opportunity for Midwest dairy farmers.

Traditional dairy products have long been a part of global exports, but as consumer preference for high-protein foods and beverages continues to grow and global populations increase, demand for dairy ingredients also rises. However, stringent storage conditions and requirements during export create challenges to ensure ingredient quality and functionality when it reaches the final destination. Plus, product inconsistencies may limit the use of U.S. dairy ingredients for these global customers.

The methods used to dry dairy ingredients can impact how the ingredient functions upon rehydration and/or when added to products such as infant formula, beverages or snack bars. Recognizing the strong sales opportunity that this offers dairy farmers, Midwest Dairy Association, in cooperation with the National Dairy Council, is sponsoring research to address these issues. Ideally, these findings will enable dairy ingredients to be used more widely in a variety of new product applications globally. Some examples of current research include:

Dr. Lloyd Metzger, director of the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, and his team at South Dakota State are studying improvements in spray drying dairy ingredients, which can impact how the ingredient functions in finished products. This research is particularly important because every pound of cheese produced generates nine pounds of whey, which is concentrated, spray dried and many times exported. His team is using a specialized piece of equipment to conduct small-scale tests and determine optimal spray drying conditions for producing whey and milk powders with improved quality and performance characteristics, such as solubility and mixability. These tests will help manufacturers determine the best way to dry dairy ingredients in a commercial setting to make production processes more consistent and effective.

Dr. Jayendra Amamcharla and his Kansas State team are investigating faster, more effective approaches to improve the mouthfeel of high-protein foods and beverages made with dairy ingredients. For this study, microbubbles (bubbles less than one millimeter in diameter) are injected into Greek yogurt. The yogurt is evaluated over a standard shelf life period to ensure it meets the same functional standards as current varieties. While this study is evaluating the use of microbubbles in yogurt, microbubbles may also be used in other dairy ingredients, such as milk powders and whey protein, to improve mouthfeel. This technology may be particularly useful for exported dairy ingredients, as it provides food manufacturers with an improved method for delivering products that meet consumer expectations.

“New technologies such as these can help the dairy industry improve ingredient quality and consistency to meet the needs of consumers around the world,” states Dr. Metzger. The Midwest Dairy Research Center is committed to dairy innovation, as researchers continually explore new technologies that can create new and improved dairy processes for the expanded use of dairy-based ingredients.

1Carbonneau P, Meilhac, L. Got growth? Opportunities and challenges for U.S. Dairy industry. McKinsey & Company. January 2016.

Our Latest Research: Rapid Detection of Yeasts and Molds in Dairy Products

The dairy industry is committed to providing safe, high-quality dairy products to consumers, while also reducing waste throughout the food supply chain. A great opportunity to decrease food waste lies in the detection of yeast and mold during production. This can help ensure product safety, reduce spoilage and reduce food waste during distribution and in consumers’ refrigerators.

Conventional plate counting, the leading current yeast and mold identification method, involves sampling a dairy product from the production line, placing a small amount of the product in a laboratory “plate” and then waiting a period of time to see if any undesirable organisms such as mold or yeast grow on the “plate.” While reliable, this process can take five to seven days to obtain results, which can mean issues are discovered long after production is complete. Faster detection methods are available, but still take 48 to 72 hours to provide microbial quality indicators. Given the limited shelf life of dairy products, a faster method for the detection of microorganisms would be of great benefit. This would reduce production cycle times, allow dairy products to reach grocery store shelves faster,  provide retailers with a longer shelf life to sell the products and ultimately reduces product waste due to spoilage.

The Midwest Dairy Association is currently funding research to help meet this need. Andreia Bianchini  and her research team at the University of Nebraska have been working on a process that can detect and quantify yeasts and molds in dairy products in less than 24 hours. This innovative method uses genetic material in yeast and mold to detect the presence and quantity of these microorganisms in dairy products. With the methodology process complete, researchers will begin using the method to test for the presence of yeast and mold in dairy products this summer. The performance of this method will be compared to conventional plating and other semi-rapid methods. If successful, this method could soon be used by the dairy industry to greatly reduce testing time, ensure faster delivery to store shelves and reduce food waste due to spoilage.

The Midwest Dairy Association will continue to support research efforts, such as this one, to develop technologies that will help the dairy industry deliver safe, high-quality dairy products to consumers.

Our Latest Research: Advancing the Front on the War on Spores

Winning the “war on spores” can deliver to the industry millions of dollars in additional usable milk, open and extend export markets and save time and money throughout production. Present throughout the value chain, spores can be challenging to detect, difficult to remove and costly to the industry in product waste and cleaning time and expenses. “Finding solutions for spores is a complex, but necessary, challenge for the industry,” shared Bill Graves, Senior Vice President, Product Research at Dairy Research Institute. “Each spore solution opens new opportunities for industry growth and enables safer, better tasting dairy products.”

This is where Midwest Dairy-funded research has helped in identifying solutions. For example, biofilms are a complex matrix of proteins and other matter that trap, house and grow bacteria, causing issues during production. Midwest Dairy funded research that studied how types of equipment surfaces and different cleaning enzymes can lower rate of biofilm formation throughout milk processing.

The research findings have helped manufacturers implement new practices/technologies, such as use of ultrasonic technology and new cleaning processes, so that, milk and milk products will be better able to meet the specifications for use in both domestic and global markets. This would provide millions of dollars of additional revenue for the dairy industry.

The challenge is significant, but the battle against spores is being waged and won on many fronts. Midwest Dairy’s research is driving improvements from grass to glass in terms of taste, spoilage and longer shelf life, which are improving consumer confidence in milk.

Research Priorities

Our research priorities are built around 5 key areas that are aligned with increased sales of milk; technology or knowledge gaps between industry and academia; and faculty expertise.

Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center

Our research efforts are led by the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, a collaborative effort between dairy farmers and land-grant universities. The center’s mission is to provide responsive, agile, thorough and comprehensive product research. Midwest Dairy Association sponsored research is managed by the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, a virtual center comprised of the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, South Dakota State University and allied universities such as Kansas State University. It is led by Dr. Lloyd Metzger. The Center has more than 20 faculty who offer expertise in cheese, whey, milk and dairy ingredient process, safety, flavor and nutrition of dairy products. Take a tour of our research facility.

Dr. Lloyd Metzger

Midwest Dairy Annual Research Meeting

Each year in the late summer or early fall, the Midwest Dairy Annual Research Meeting leadership team convenes a meeting of researchers, producers and industry partners to share results and prioritize research dollars and projects to be funded. This collaboration accelerates the dialog and understanding, which ensures projects are addressing key industry issues. The meeting provides attendees an opportunity to interact and network with research and processing experts, gain a better understanding of specific opportunities and solutions, build relationships across the dairy value chain and jointly move the industry forward.

Midwest Dairy Research Forum

Each year in the fall, the Midwest Dairy Research Center sponsors a Midwest Dairy Research Forum, which is held to provide updates on research funded at the Annual Research Meeting and current discoveries. Key focus areas for the Research Forum include consumer behavior and impact to dairy products, nutrition science and how dairy products can help consumers meet their dietary needs, the latest in production and storage technologies and new applications for dairy ingredients such as whey protein.

Feedback from Forum participants includes:

Last year’s Midwest Dairy Research Forum provided interesting and valuable testimonies from both academia and industry of various dairy products and the effects of the heat resistant organisms. I found the case studies that were shared with the group to be extremely interesting and helpful.

Gerry Buescher

Technical Sales, Agropour Ingredients

It was beneficial for our organization to be presented with up to date, solid research to educate us on a very hot topic in the dairy industry. The speakers were knowledgeable, and it is always great to tap into our industry experts for their expertise and findings. I would highly recommend focused forums in the future.

Dawn Raymond

Quality Assurance Manager, First District Association

Powerful Partners

Midwest Dairy Association research is conducted in cooperation with the National Dairy Research Plan, supported by The National Dairy Council, which funds research on dairy nutrition and product development and production.

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) at the University of Minnesota is also an active partner and frequent co-funder of key projects.

More than 20 industrial partners from key dairy companies in the Midwest support the work of the center as advisors, funders and co-researchers.

Lastly, The Institute for Dairy Ingredient Processing at South Dakota State University, a jointly funded resource focused on the commercialization of manufacturing processes of dairy-based ingredients produced for domestic and international markets.

Impacting the Dairy Industry

Our researchers have authored more than 200 publications, presented over 500 abstracts and posters at national and international scientific conferences and awarded nearly 150 graduate degrees — both master’s and PhD’s, all in support of dairy foods research.

Insights and findings from Midwest Dairy research have been implemented by the industry and are positively impacting the quality and safety of milk and dairy products.

For additional information about Midwest Dairy’s research, contact Nancy Huls, VP Research and Insights.

Contact Nancy




Nancy Huls
Share this page!