This makes milk special again
In the refrigerated section of several Dutch retail stores, you can find the most extraordinary and exclusive dairy product in the history of the dairy industry. It’s called ElkeMelk (EveryMilk). Each bottle contains the milk from one specific cow, with a unique composition and flavour. Every bottle of ElkeMelk is different.
The creator of ElkeMelk is Matthijs Baan, a creative and entrepreneurial dairy farmer from Molenaarsgraaf, with about 120 cows. Baan had observed how fruit growers would introduce themselves at events by bringing along crates of apples, pears, or other fruits, impressing the other attendees.
“Matthijs wanted to do something similar,” says food technologist Maurice Boonman from TOP. “But how can you achieve that as a dairy farmer? The milk you produce first goes into a large cooling tank and then, along with the milk from other dairy farmers, ends up in the vats of the milk factory.”
Milk is a standardised mass-produced product. “A fine product, but also an anonymous one,” Boonman continues. “Every carton or bottle of milk you buy is the same. Matthijs had been playing with the idea of bringing to market milk that is not a standardised mass product, but can be traced back to a specific cow. If you buy a bottle of that milk, all the milk comes from one specific cow. If you buy another bottle, it contains milk from a different cow.”
Baan’s idea became a reality after the dairy farmer met Wouter de Heij, the CEO of TOP. In 2018, Boonman and his colleagues began developing the technology Baan needed. “We were able to make Baan’s milking robot communicate with an installation that stores the milk from each cow in a separate tank,” Boonman explains. “We then pasteurise the milk and fill individual bottles with the cooled milk.” The filling machine, by the way, was not built by TOP but by a befriended company.
A label printer, which also communicates with the milking robot, creates labels for the bottles. These labels reveal the name of the cow that provided the milk. The labels also feature a QR code that allows consumers to retrieve more information about the specific cow on ElkeMelk.nl. The labels also provide an indication of the nutritional value of the milk. “The nutritional value varies per cow and per season,” Boonman says. “The installation adjusts the values per cow on a weekly basis.”
The installation consists of 7 tanks. If the cows produce more milk than the ElkeMelk installation can process, the excess milk is processed in the regular way. So, it goes to the milk factory as usual.
ElkeMelk contains slightly more fat than regular whole milk and has a slightly sweeter taste. Since the milk is not homogenised, a layer of cream may form over time. However, this doesn’t deter consumers who are willing to pay a few tens of cents more for a bottle of ElkeMelk. “We know that ElkeMelk is popular in exclusive coffee bars,” says Boonman.
ElkeMelk is therefore an example of de-standardisation. Time will tell if more dairy farmers will choose this path. “Matthijs Baan has shown that it is possible,” concludes Boonman.
More information about ElkeMelk can be found on ElkeMelk.nl. Are you interested in ElkeMelk or do you want to know more? Feel free to contact us, follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter.