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Butter; Composition, Characteristics and Benefits (Detailed Explanation)

Butter, the first findings of which were found in 8000 B.C in history, has had a very important place in human nutrition until today.

The unique aroma of butter, which contains more than 80% milk fat, has become a flavor element in nutrition; this unique flavor has made butter preferable for consumption.

Although many ideas were put forward about butter in the 20th century that it is unhealthy – its reputation was restored in the 21st century – it is a very healthy and nutritious food in terms of its enormous fatty acid profile and richness in vitamin and mineral content.

Butter is a dairy product produced from cream by the churning and malaxation process. It contains more than 80% of partially crystallized milk fat in its structure.

Since the optimum temperature range for the churning process is 15-20°C, the origin of butter is regions with a temperate climate. In addition to existing knowledge, recent scientific research has focused on increasing the shelf life of butter and improving its quality.

In the Turkish Food Codex Communiqué on Butter, Other Dairy Fat-Based Spreads and Glazed Butter, “butter has a minimum 80%, maximum 90% milk fat content, maximum 2% skimmed milk dry matter and maximum 16% water content. It is defined as a dairy product in which additives allowed in the Turkish Food Codex Regulation can be used”.

It is divided into various classes depending on whether the cream used in its production is ripened, salty or unsalted and different types according to the TS 1331 Butter Standard. In addition, different types of butter are also mentioned in the Turkish Food Codex-Butter, Other Dairy-Fat Based Spreads and Plain Butter Communiqué.

Information on the definitions of butter in the Communiqué and Standard as well as in various kinds of literature are given below.

Breakfast: obtained from pasteurized cream in accordance with the technique, has a unique taste and smell by adding butter culture and contains at least 82% milk fat by weight.

Culinary: obtained from cream or yogurt in accordance with its technique and added to a special taste and smell when necessary, containing at least 82% milk fat for unsalted and at least 80% for salty.

Clarified (Melted Butter): It has a milk fat content of at least 99% by weight, separated from foam, sediment and water as much as possible after being melted at a temperature not exceeding 60°C. In other words, it is a type of fat produced by removing the components that make up the non-fat dry matter of milk and almost all of the serum phase from butter. Milk, cream or butter are used as raw materials in their production.

Churn: obtained by using yogurt as a raw material in its production. The milk fat ratio in the final product is between 80-90% by weight.

Flavored: It is seasoned butter that is produced by adding various spices, fruits, vegetables, honey or other foodstuffs, having the same features as butter except for taste and smell and having a milk fat content of at least 75% by weight.

According to the salt ratio;

• Less salted 0.5-0.6%

• Standard salted 0.8-1.0%

• Extra salted 2% (maximum)

According to the maturation status;

Sweet cream: obtained without applying the ripening process to the cream. In this type of butter production, the acidity is >6.0 pH.

Sour cream: obtained by ripening the cream. In the production of this type of butter, the acidity is between 5.0-5.4 pH in slightly ripened ones and 4.5-4.7 pH in more ripened ones.

The characteristic of butter is unlike the raw material it is processed, especially milk. The processes applied during production, meanwhile, the separation of skim milk, neutralization, pasteurization, starter culture addition, churning and salting give the product a distinctive feature. Butter is basically formed by concentrating milk fat and therefore contains all the ingredients in milk.

However, although the ratios of these components increase approximately 20 times compared to milk according to the raw materials used in butter production and butter production technique, the ratio of other components such as water, protein, lactose and salt is greatly reduced.

Physically, butter is in the form of a water-in-oil (W/Y) emulsion. Water droplets and air bubbles in the oil form the continuous phase in butter. Small water droplets often contain the cream plasma, while large water droplets contain flavor compounds and buttermilk, sometimes salt and microorganisms that contaminate butter.

Milk fat exists both in fat globules and in the continuous milk fat phase, partly as liquid and partly as crystals. Free fat is formed by squeezing a certain part of the fat in the globules during the kneading and churning processes. 50% of the fat in the globules is in the form of crystals in a well-chilled cream.

The crystals in the free oil can be as small as 0.1 µm. The ratio of solid fat to oil in the continuous oil phase is important in terms of the structure of the oil. Butter containing a lot of oil has a soft and oily structure, while those containing a small amount of oil show a crisp and crumbly structure.

Nutritional Value of Butter

Among the food components, the element with the highest energy value is fat. Fats have an important place in meeting the daily energy needs of metabolism. In this respect, butter containing at least 80% milk fat is of great importance in nutrition.

It is known that butter is not only a source of calories, but it is also a food that must be taken to protect health, increase the body’s resistance to external factors and fulfill the organism’s functions. This situation is of great importance in terms of public health and nutrition, as well as the development of butter technology.

Unlike other animal and vegetable oils, butter contains low and high molecular weight fatty acids, monoene, diene and polyene unsaturated fatty acids and many isomers. Therefore, it is easier to digest and has a higher physiological value than other oils.

The fact that it contains some essential fatty acids (such as linoleic acid, linolenic acid and arachidonic acid) that cannot be synthesized by the body further increases its value. Meanwhile, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are also found in butter and play an important role in the development of living things and the strengthening of bones.

Composition of butter

It is an important natural source of vitamin A. Among the tocopherols, there is only α tocopherol and it protects vitamin A and carotene from autooxidation due to its antioxidant effect.

Butter made from biologically matured cream by adding culture has aroma substances consisting of CO2, alcohols, acetic acid, diacetyl, acetoin, acetaldehyde, acetone and ethanol in addition to milk acid (lactic acid) formed as a result of milk sugar and citric acid fermentation.

It also contains several other components such as ketones, lactones, esters, dimethyl sulfide, free volatile fatty acids and flavorings. The amount of cholesterol is about 240 mg/100 g.

Even if butter is made with the best quality, its durability is limited. This applies to all butter, washed or unwashed, salted or unsalted, in sour or sweet cream butter. Since microbiological, enzymatic and chemical reactions often play a role in the deterioration, it is complicated to determine which of these causes the negative taste change to occur.

During the degradation of the oil by enzymatic, microbiological and chemical effects, both partial hydrolysis and autooxidation of glycerides, as well as polymerization, oxidation and reduction of the resulting products take place.

As with many other foodstuffs, some changes occur in milk and dairy products during storage. There are many physical, chemical and microbiological quality losses in ice cream, milk, cream, butter, cheese, milk powder and yogurt during storage.

The common factor for quality loss seen in all dairy products is oxidation. On the oxidative degradation of butter; the composition of the milk fat, light, oxygen in the air, pH value of the water phase of the butter, table salt, contamination with heavy metal ions, especially copper, storage temperature and antioxidants and prooxidants have important effects.

High levels of oxygen present in the environment, a large surface exposed to oxygen and high-temperature increase oxidation. High moisture content reduces oxidation as it inhibits oxygen mobility.

While saturated fatty acids in foodstuffs are also sometimes subject to oxidation, mostly unsaturated fatty acids or double bonds of fatty acid residues undergo oxidation. In later stages, many different compounds can be formed from these oxidation products.

Some of these compounds, even at very low concentrations, cause food to be perceived as having tallow, fishy, ​​metallic or artificial-alien flavor and aroma. The relatively high presence of C18:2 and C18:3 fatty acids in milk and dairy products is desirable in terms of lowering blood cholesterol levels in the consumer.

However, the high level of these fatty acids reduces the oxidative stability of the product. The small number of antioxidant substances in milk fat is not sufficient to prevent oxidation and external antioxidants are added.

The glycerides of low molecular fatty acids found in milk fat have a very superior aroma. However, the fatty acids that emerge as a result of their breakdown cause a very bad odor and a sharp and bitter taste compared to the fatty acids with large molecules.

In other words; Good taste and aroma turn into bad taste and aroma as a result of the hydrolysis of milk fat and accumulation of short-chain fatty acids. However, the high molecular fatty acids realesed by the hydrolysis do not have an obvious taste and odor.

Butter in History

The earliest sources regarding butter in the historical process date back to 10,000 years ago. Information about butter was first found in the sources of the Urartians, who dominated Eastern Anatolia in 8000 BC.

In the 2000s BC, butter was used for nutritional purposes and in the following years, the Thracians also learned how to make butter.

In the 300s BC, it was used as food in the East, while it was used as an ointment and hair oil by the Greeks and Romans.

It is understood that butter was made in the region stretching from India to Thrace in the 5th century BC. In the same years, butter production started to become widespread in Europe.

In the 8th century AD, it was stated that commercial butter making was part of the industry in Norway. Scandinavian countries pioneered the spread of butter production in Western Europe.

Industrial production developed after 1850 with the introduction of mechanical cream separators. However, to prevent the cheating of butter with margarine, these products have been defined by law in the countries where they are produced.

In the 1890s, the success of cream pasteurization and the use of pure cultures in butter making and the preservation of quality were effective in terms of recent developments.

Production and Consumption in the World

In 2019, butter production increased by 3% compared to the previous year and reached a total of 11.1 million tons.

India is the world’s largest butter (ghee) producer, with the largest share in this production at 53% (5.9 million tons). While EU-28 (2.4 million tons) takes second place in world production, the USA (0.9 million tons) takes third place.

The fourth is New Zealand with 0.8 million tons and the fifth is Russia with 0.3 million tons. The country with the fastest increase in production is China with an increase of 24.72%.

Butter consumption in the European Union and Oceania countries is higher than the average consumption in South America and Africa.

Annual consumption per capita in Western European countries such as France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Central European countries such as the Czech Republic and Oceania is more than 4 kg.

While the per capita consumption is 8 kg/year in France, it is more than 6 kg per year in Germany and Denmark.

Consumption is at very low levels in African and South American countries, especially Colombia, South Africa, Brazil and China, where milk consumption is also low.

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