Primary objective of processing milk is to extend shelf life and eliminate the risk of pathogens. Heat treatment is the most common processing technique and pasteurisation destroys the most heat resistant pathogen, M. tuberculosis.
Other techniques such as fermentation, cheese making, concentration and dehydration, usually incorporate a heat treatment step. The choice of process is influenced by local cultures and traditions and scale of operation. In South East Asia, milk sweets and curds account for a significant percentage of milk usage while cheese making is the preferred method in Latin America. In dairy exporting countries, large scale drying and cheese making operations predominate.
Most of the milk processed in developing countries is handled in small scale processing units and the AGA programme provides advice and assistance in small scale processing technologies for liquid milk and traditional milk products from a range of animal species in the different regions.
An alternative, low cost milk-pasteurising-packaging system called the "Village Milk System", has been successfully introduced in a number of countries. In pouch processing eliminates the risk of post pasteurisation contamination and gives long shelf life.
Adding value is another very important aspect of milk processing. It contributes to increasing farmers' income and food security in rural community and marketing, see Milk Marketing Page