New Technology in the Old World Offers Fresh Milk Straight from Farm
by Sylvia P. Onusic, Guest Blogger
Photo Credit: Lidija Slana of Ljubljana
Slovenia, on the “Sunny Side of the Alps” is a small country of about two million people located directly east of Italy, south of Austria, and north of Croatia. Slovenia successfully fought a short war for independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, and held the Presidency of the EU in 2008.
The capital city, Ljubljana, is a very charming Austro-Hungarian style Old World town, where almost everyone speaks English. The downtown old city hosts a large farmers market (trznica) every weekday and Saturday during the entire year where green grocers, farmers, flower vendors, and local townspeople sell their wares. Whatever is blooming, budding or for picking in the forests shows up at the market. Living in Slovenia for 6 years, I learned a lot about quality of life and a big part of that involves the availability of home made and local foods. Slovenes are also no strangers to raw and fermented foods which are traditional and honored foods. In the market during the fall, raw lacto fermented sauerkraut and its juice, and pickled turnips, have been available for years.
A Traditional Culture Embraces Technological Innovation
A recent addition to the market is a “mlekomat” – an automatic raw milk machine which dispenses non homogenized, non pasteurized milk from cows on Alpine pasture, which are not ever treated with antibiotics. This summer I visited Slovenia and had the opportunity to use the machine and drink the milk. The machine dispenses milk in a variety of quantities, and bottles can be purchased to transport the milk. Patrons also can bring their own containers.
I heard about the presence of the machine in the market and made it my goal to find it when I next visited the market. I located the object in question, walked back and forth quickly, and decided to approach. I was lucky enough to be able to observe a few patrons using the machine. It was truly a delightful experience to watch the machine in action for the first time. Each patron performed the procedure very matter-of-factly, using their container of choice, and then went their way.
See the Milk-O-Mat in Action
For a look at the process on You-Tube, see the operation of the melkomat owned by Potokar Farms by a young, handsome Slovene man who is delighted with the machine.
My Encounter with the Mlekomat
Like the young Slovenian in the film, I was excited when it was my turn, and couldn’t wait to taste the milk. I was sure something would go wrong, the machine would stop functioning, the machine would run out of milk, or the milk would not taste good. There were directions on the machine, in Slovene language, but it was easy to use. The milk was the richest, creamiest, loveliest and most delicious surprise I ever have had. Safe to say, my experience with the mlekomat made me a fan. I returned time and again. Each time I wondered, how is it that a small country like Slovenia, and other countries in Europe, could trust their citizens to buy this lovely milk without any intervention such as milk police, or large looming signs, not only once, but day after day?
The mlekomat system was developed in Switzerland, but perfected in Italy, where it is now very popular and called latteria. The Bar area where the milk is dispensed, is disinfected after each use with a special UV antibacterial lamp. A special fan repels insects.
Health inspectors have a special control card which enables them to examine the status of the functioning of the machine, whenever they like, back to one months time. The temperature is automatically checked every twenty minutes by the software. The program of the milk machine does not allow dispensing of milk more than 24 hours old, or if there has been an uncontrolled rise in the temperature of the milk. The Farmer who owns and maintains the machine is constantly informed about the status of his machine through a GSM module in his phone.
Small Farms Are Saavy at Direct Sales
The farms that own the milk machines are very entrepreneurial, customer friendly, and have web pages which present their farm, nutrition, and information about the mlekomats. On the Potokar Farms website you can even join their Facebook group.
Here is a link to the Facebook page for mlekomati.
Customers Have 24/7 Convenience
Consumers can buy a prepaid milk card at local shops for 20 Euros which entitles the buyer to two free liters of milk. The card can be refilled. One liter costs about one Euro, or $1.30. Smaller or larger amounts than a liter can be purchased.
The mlekomats, open 24 hours, have been such a success, that in a very short time, after their introduction this summer, three machines are now in operation in Ljubljana and in 11 Slovenian cities. At the opening of the first machine, Simona Prevec, the governmental representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, pointed out that “the consumer now has the opportunity to buy fresh milk everyday from local farms.” Can you imagine that happening in America?
Slovenian Scientists Attest to the Health Benefits
Slovene researchers found that the fat from homogenized milk accumulates on the walls of blood vessels. Maja Tomkiewicz-Vouk, a chemical technology engineer, feels that all homogenized milk should, like the cigarettes in packages, come with written warnings that homogenized milk causes blood vessel damage. She further stresses that the body cannot absorb calcium from homogenized milk. In addition, she explains that pasteurizing milk destroys most of it health giving properties, which makes processed milk not worth consuming, only for calories.
Sylvia P. Onusic holds a BS in foods and nutrition, and a PhD in Health Education and Wellness, and has completed studies to qualify for RD (Registered Dietitian). She was a home economics teacher for many years. Her concentration is in holistic nutrition with a focus on the evolution of food and the human body in relation to food allergies and disease. Sylvia is the mother of two teenage sons, one on whom has celiac disease. She has several food allergies as well.