Monday, April 14, 2008

Milk Test 2008

This weekend, I had a taste test between organic 1% milk and "normal" 1% milk. I really didn't think I'd be able to to tell the difference-- nor would the person to which I directed the challenge in the first place. To my surprise, there is a mildly perceptible difference in taste, but they actually smell distinctly different. I'm still not sure I can support organic foods due to the fair-trade foolishness that usually comes with it, but organic milk does tend to last longer in your fridge. So they've got that going for them. Which is nice.

But it got me to thinking: My opponent drinks only organic milk. I drink only "normal milk." Obviously, we're both not immediately familiar with the milk foreign to us-- but does that mean we're in the same positional (dis)advantage for participating in the taste test? Presumably, my opponent switched to organic milk at some point-- does the memory of "normal" milk help in discerning the difference? Could "normal" milk in all its capitalist, mass-production evil have diminished my taste buds so as to render me useless in a challenge like this? Is the problem really symmetrical?


Bryce said...

It turns out that memories of foods (and their corresponding odors) can be some of the most robust memories in animals. This phenomenon is commonly used as a "natural" way to measure long term memory in a variety of animals, from mice to birds. I'm not as familiar with the human research, but I would bet that a lifetime of "normal" milk drinking would do little to hinder your discriminatory tasting abilities.

I'll avoid the whole organic debate, but the raw milk debate is kind of interesting. Info on raw milk:

And info on where your state stands on raw milk:

Bryce said...

Just to clarify my point, your 'opponent' very well may have some memory of normal milk, but that wouldn't necessarily give him an advantage in discrimination. Preference maybe, but not discrimination.

By the way, Jabba the Hut had a tongue. I bet he loves organic milk:

Justin M Ross said...

I'm surprised the difference in taste exists, though I do not doubt it. My thinking would be that organic milk producers would start by trying to match their product to the original product they are trying to play substitute to. Similar to diet colas trying to replace their non-diet counterparts. Conversely, milk probably would have started out as organic and producers would have added hormones without turning consumers away from the taste they were accustomed to.

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