New Zealand is a world-scale dairy producer, right? Well, no other dairy-producing country I'm familiar with (Netherlands, Denmark, UK, US) treats buttermilk as a ''byproduct'', leave alone as a ''waste product''.
It is widely sold in supermarkets, at or below the price of regular milk. Smooth buttermilk is a delicious drink, and most people suffering from lactose intolerance can enjoy it without problem.
Posted here in 1985 with my family, I asked colleagues at work why there was no buttermilk in the shops.
Most wrinkled their noses and muttered words like ''rotten milk''. One lady explained ''It's only any good for making scones''. Some supermarkets did offer small cartons of the stuff, but at a wildly extortionate price. Plus, the contents turned out to be lumpy, unappealing as a beverage. Dairy paradise eh? Tui moment.
In 1987 I wrote a polite letter to a regional dairy firm (OK, it was Tararua) expressing surprise at this hole in the market. The reply was rather patronising, if predicable: the PR person effectively repeated that old-style grocer's mantra: ''There is no call for it.''
Judging by names and accents Fonterra's current GM must have been raised in the Netherlands, where, as a boy, he no doubt quaffed buttermilk by the bucketful. Point being that our giant dairy processor can hardly claim corporate ignorance on this subject.
Perhaps extracting and marketing buttermilk solids would not be very profitable in the short term. But simply discarding this potential food source as ''waste'' in a hungry world: now that really stinks.
Meanwhile, like many fellow- escapees from the northern hemisphere, I'm still hoping the day will come when we can all put a litre or two or three of drinking- grade buttermilk on the weekly shopping list, and pay a price not too different from that of plain milk.
Face it, Fonterra, you already sold the butter content!
- © Fairfax NZ News
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