Butter is manufactured mostly from cream separated from milk. Some butters, alternatively classified as “spreads” are manufactured from a blend of cream and edible oils such as canola oil. Butter is also salted or unsalted. Cream or milk butter fat is the most valuable constituent in butter. The control of the fat content close to the target value is the main justification for return on investment.
Two main types of butter churns are used, batch churns and continuous churns. If the manufacturer uses a batch churn, the standardization of the raw material, cream is not necessary. If the processor uses a continuous churn, standardization of the cream to a certain fat level helps to maintain a steady operation of the churn. The cream is tested for fat content and the adjustment is made in the cream silo. The consistency of the cream in the silo is maintained by circulating the silo and tested to maintain this consistency.
In contrast, cheese is made from specific fat content liquid milk along with various other products and a bacterial culture. The fat content of the finished cheese is important to the texture of the cheese, and this is based on the ratio of fluid milk casein to fat. The proper proportions of solids, protein and fat are key parameters that must be controlled to produce high yields of consistent cheese.
NIR has been long used for the analysis of the incoming ingredients as well as the final products for both butter and cheese production. NIR can analyze cream, butter and spreads for fat, solids and moisture in 30 seconds, providing valuable input to process control. NIR analysic can also analyze incoming materials, inprocess samples and final samples of hard and soft cheeses for moisture, fat, FDB, salt and solids. In both cheese and butter production, NIR analysis can provide valuable analytical data that will allow the plant manager to make efficiency gains in the process leading to more consistent products and higher profits.