A major food group comprising animal milk and milk products including yoghurt, cream, condensed, evaporated and UHT milks, butter and buttermilk, as well as less common ingredients such as whey and milk powder. Dairy in the UK is predominantly cows’-milk based, but goat, sheep and water buffalo milk products are increasingly available too. Despite containing no milk, eggs are sometimes also classified as dairy.
Milk, cream and yoghurt should smell fresh, rather than sour or cheesy: always check use-by dates on pots or bottles. On the other hand, cheese may be at its best when pungent, so check with the vendor to find out when it should be consumed.
Dairy products are generally available all year-round, although a few cheeses have a season when they are considered to be at their best.
Dairy products go off rapidly in warm temperatures: milk, cream, yoghurt and buttermilk should be stored in the fridge, and cheese in an unheated room such as a larder, cellar or garage. Long-life products such as powdered or heat-treated milks can be kept at room temperature. Cream and milk don’t tend to freeze well, but butter and most cheeses can be frozen more successfully.
Dairy products are a valuable source of calcium and protein, but they can also be high in fat, and may contain added flavourings such as salt or sugar.
Europe and parts of Asia and Africa have a long history of dairy production, but it has been slower to catch on in other parts of the world; adults from South East Asia, in particular, may find dairy difficult to digest, a condition known as lactose intolerance.
Article by Felicity Cloake
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