The importance of milk grading lies in the fact that dairy products are only as good as the raw materials from which they were made. It is important that dairy personnel have a knowledge of sensory perception and evaluation techniques. The identification of off-flavours and desirable flavours, as well as knowledge of their likely cause, should enable the production of high quality milk, and subsequently, high quality dairy products.
An understanding of the principles of sensory evaluation are necessary for grading. All five primary senses are used in the sensory evaluation of dairy products: sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. The greatest emphasis, however, is placed on taste and smell.
The Sense of Taste
Taste buds, or receptors, are chiefly on the upper surface of the tongue, but may also be present in the cheek and soft palates of young people. These buds, about 900 in number, must make contact with the flavouring agent before a taste sensation occurs. Saliva, of course, is essential in aiding this contact. There are four different types of nerve endings on the tongue which detect the four basic “mouth” flavours -sweet, salt, sour, and bitter. Samples must, therefore, be spread around in the mouth in order to make positive flavour identification. In addition to these basic tastes, the mouth also allows us to get such reactions as coolness, warmth, sweetness, astringency, etc.
The Sense of Smell
We are much more perceptive to the sense of smell than we are to taste. For instance, it is possible for an odouriferous material such as mercaptain to be detected in 20 billion parts of air. The centres of olfaction are located chiefly in the uppermost part of the nasal cavity. To be detectable by smell, a substance must dissolve at body temperature and be soluble in fat solvents.
Note: The sense of both taste and smell may become fatigued during steady use. A good judge does not try to examine more than one sample per minute. Rinsing the mouth with water between samples may help to restore sensitivity.