Dairy products are highly nutrient foods that provide calcium, minerals, and other essential vitamins. However, dairy processing techniques can vary form one region to the other – leading to differences in the composition, color and flavour of milk, cheese, and similar products.
Dryland Systems researchers found that North African countries, such as Morocco, are still using traditional methods, mostly from raw milk, to produce indigenous milk products. These traditional methods might raise the risk of transferring zoonotic diseases such as brucellosis and other germs such as bacterial coliform, leading to contamination and foodborne illness.
To provide information on public health and milk processing, the Dryland Systems research team working in North Africa and West Asia conducted a two-day training on the scientific methods of milk processing for 20 local field experts in Tangier, Morocco. This activity aimed to correct unhealthy practices adopted by local breeders and increase marketing opportunities, revenue, and productivity.
Trainees were introduced to high-tech methods in processing dairy - a complex process that starts in the farm and reaches a large numbers of consumers, on the basis of Moroccan dairy culture and hygiene measurements for consumer safety.
Participants were introduced to new practices that reduce contaminations and process dairy and various types of cheese such as white fresh cheese. The usefulness of including medicinal herbs in processing Halloumi and Feta cheese was thoroughly explained and presented from various perspectives. Training also focused on fermented dairy products like yogurt and traditional [Moroccan] products like Rayeb and Lban.
“We have introduced pasteurization and thermal treatment techniques as we care about consumer health and hygiene,” says Muhi Hilali, a senior livestock expert, “We have also conducted a survey for a small number of consumers on the types of the Rayeb Yoghurt they favor through sensory evaluation. This will help us advise producers on the best dairy culture. Future research needs to look at the effect of different incubation temperature on Lban and Rayeb,’ he said.
As a follow-up activity, participants were asked to develop sampling of Moroccan dairy products to check microbial quality, test the quality of the products available at local markets and disseminate findings to Moroccan business women and local communities in other action sites in North Africa.