Consumers expect fluid milk products to be nutritious, fresh-tasting, and wholesome. To the consumer, "quality" means that the product tastes good and that it keeps well in their home refrigerator. From a processor's or regulatory point of view, "quality" may be more objectively measured by comparing product conformance to established standards on the last day of sale. To maintain and/or increase market share, however, the processor's goal should be to meet the consumer's quality expectations. To that end, the overall goals of the Milk Quality Improvement Program (MQIP) are to assist NYS dairy plants in improving the quality of dairy products and to monitor and make recommendations to improve the quality of raw milk produced in NYS.
Cornell University has a long history of providing technical assistance to New York State dairy farmers and processors. The Department of Dairy Industry was formed in 1903. The name was changed to the Department of Dairy and Food Science in 1960. In 1966, the word "dairy" was dropped to yield the Department of Food Science, as it remains today. Despite the name change, dairy research and extension remain as major focus areas of the department, primarily due to the support of the New York State Dairy Promotion Board.
Milk quality and flavor research at Cornell was pioneered by Professor W. Frank Shipe in 1964-65. His survey work found that the flavor and quality of more than half of the milk sold in NYS at that time warranted "consumer complaint" within seven days of processing, with over a third specifically afflicted by "oxidized" flavor defects. As a consequence of this important work, the Tri-State (NY/NJ/PA) Milk Flavor Program was initiated to identify and correct quality problems through research and extension efforts.
The NYS Dairy Promotion Board funded its first project with the Department of Food Science in 1972. This project was designed to examine school milk quality. This survey, published in 1974, determined a direct correlation between milk flavor and levels of consumption by school-age children. This work revealed that children in districts receiving off-flavored products consumed 30% less milk than children in school districts regularly receiving good tasting milk. This study also identified the emerging incidence of rancid flavor defects, which were subsequently found to be widespread in the regular commercial supply. To address these established links between milk quality and product consumption, the NYS Dairy Promotion Board has provided support for Cornell's ongoing research and extension efforts designed to monitor and improve the quality of NYS dairy products. Further, the strong history of interest and support of the Board played a key role in the decision to establish the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center at Cornell University in 1988.
Support provided by the NYS Dairy Promotion Board has allowed development of the Department of Food Science at Cornell University as a premier center for dairy research and extension. The research and extension activities of the MQIP and the Department of Food Science have contributed to improving the overall quality of NYS milk.