Ljubljanske mlekarne - About milk

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Milk contents

Milk is a foodstuff which we discover in our early childhood and which accompanies us throughout our lives. It is a rich source of protein, minerals and vitamins, which are essential to our body.

The content of individual components in cow's milk

  • water: 86–89 %
  • fats: 3,2–5,5 %
  • total protein: 2,6–4,2 %
  • casein: 2,8 %
  • serum protein: 0,7 %
  • minerals: 0,6–0,8 %

Beside the above components, milk contains numerous vitamins.

Proteins and fats

Big things come from small beginnings and proteins are the basic building blocks of many tissues, especially muscles, and are therefore a very important dietary essential. From them the body can produce numerous other substances, which are essential for proper functioning. Milk proteins contain all the essential amino acids – basic structural units, from which the human body can build its own unique proteins.
Fats are also important for a balanced diet. The fats in milk contain essential fatty acids, which cannot be produced by the body itself, but can be obtained only through food. Fats in the body protect the organs, provide insulation and at the same time they are the source and storage of energy.

Vitamins

Other substances, which we do not need in greater quantities, are also important for a healthy diet. Vitamins, which provide for the appropriate functioning of the organism, are undoubtedly among them. In most cases, the body cannot produce them by itself, this is why the need for vitamins must be met by the intake of food, and milk does an excellent job in performing this task. It is a source of numerous mineral substances and at the same time carries out the metabolism of vitamins. This applies to liposoluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) as well as water soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and vitamin C). Just two bowls of milk a day are sufficient for the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 and at the same time ensure the intake of a good part of vitamins B1 and B2.
One bowl of cow's milk (244 grams) with reduced fat (2% of milk fat) contains the following vitamins:
Vitamins Unit Quantity Daily recommended intake of vitamins for women between 19 and 50 years of age.
Aμg134700
Thiamin (B1)μg0,0951
Riboflavin (B2)μg0,04511
Niacin (B3)μg0,22414
B5μg0,8695
B6μg0,0931,3
B12μg1,122,4
Folic acidμg12400
Cμg0,575
Dμg105600
Eμg0,0715
Kμg0,590
Source: United States Department of Agriculture

Water soluble vitamins

Vitamins of the B-complex group are water soluble vitamins and are indispensable to our body. This group consists of vitamins B1, B2, B12, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and other four vitamins. One of the most important functions of this group is to aids metabolizing food – if we eat something, it does not necessarily mean that this alone provides energy to our body. And here, the B-complex group comes into play. It helps the body obtain energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The B-complex group also helps preventing the consequences of stress, which is nowadays very important to many of us.

Vitamin C belongs to the group of water soluble vitamins that help preventing circulatory diseases. Even though milk does not contain much vitamin C, its antioxidant action is not insignificant even in smaller quantities.

Liposoluble vitamins

Milk helps introducing liposoluble vitamins into our bodies (A, D, E and K). Vitamin A is important for sight, maintaining a healthy skin, the mucosa and bones. It strengthens the immune system, since it increases the resistance to various infections. Vitamin D regulates the quantity of calcium in blood and is therefore of key importance for maintaining healthy and strong bones. Vitamin E is a very strong antioxidant, protecting our body from many poisonous and carcinogenic substances. At the same time, it helps protecting the heart and the cardiovascular system.

Minerals

The main role of minerals is to ensure the metabolism of vitamins in the body and at the same time to ensure their functioning. The body itself can produce certain vitamins, but this is not true for minerals. We must introduce them with food, and also with milk and dairy products.

Generally, minerals can be divided into two groups:

  • macro-elements: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, chlorine, sodium and magnesium;
  • micro-elements: iron, iodine, copper, manganese, fluoride, zinc, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, cobalt and vanadium.

So, milk is a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc. These six minerals have important roles in our bodies:

  • calcium is indispensable for building bones and teeth, and it has a positive effect on muscles, nerves and blood clotting;
  • magnesium regulates nervous functions, muscle contractions and aids a balanced transition of calcium, sodium and potassium ions through cell membranes;
  • phosphorus integrates in the bone and teeth structure, and is also important for the proper functioning of the heart and kidneys and for the transmission of nerve impulses;
  • potassium carries nerve impulses, affects muscle contraction, maintains normal blood pressure and has a beneficial effect on the development of the embryo;
  • selenium stimulates metabolism and protects the body from the harmful activity of free radicals;
  • zinc is a component of important enzymes and is present in all the tissues of the body; it controls muscle contraction, accelerates the healing of wounds and is indispensable for producing proteins and insulin.
One bowl of cow's milk (244 grams) with reduced fat (2% of milk fat) contains the following minerals:
Minerals Unit Quantity Daily recommended intake of minerals for women between 19 and 50 years of age.
Calciummg2851000
Coppermg0,0290,9
Ironmg0,0718
Magnesiummg27320
Manganesemg0,0071,8
Phosphorusmg229700
Potassiumg0,3664,7
Seleniumμg6,155
Sodiumg0,11,5
Zincmg1,058
Vir: United States Department of Agriculture
With just two bowls of milk a day we consume numerous vitamins and minerals that are extremely important for our health and everyday functioning of the body and can be hardly replaced by other foodstuffs.

Milk is therefore an excellent, healthy foodstuff, which cannot be given up, except in case of allergies. At Ljubljanske mlekarne we also take care for all those who have problems metabolizing milk sugar (lactose intolerance). Lactose-free Alpine milk has all the components which represent the full value of milk and dairy products.

Facts and misconceptions

Is homogenized milk really dangerous?

At Ljubljanske mlekarne the safety of the consumer is our main concern and we really want everyone to enjoy quality and delicious dairy products. Articles about the alleged danger of homogenized milk appear occasionally in different media or web pages. We can assure you that homogenized milk is in no way hazardous. For this reason, we are publishing in its entirety an article by Prof. Dr. Irena Rogelj from the Chair of Dairy Science at the Biotechnical Faculty in Ljubljana, which she wrote in response to assumptions regarding the dangers of consuming homogenized milk.

I felt compelled to write this piece by an article entitled »Homogenized milk is a slow killer«. Actually, more than the article itself, I was encouraged to write this by the letters of readers who call to action the entire Slovenian public, including the president of the state, horrified by the dangers of this killer. It is true that we Slovenians (and not only Slovenians) like sensations; however, food is not a suitable field for such games.

People are well aware of the connection between food and health. Intimidating passages about the harmfulness of milk fat in homogenized milk under headlines that emanate »mortal danger« surely scare them and discourage them from drinking this type of milk. And this is how it should be, you would say! It's true; this is how it should be, if these articles were based on scientifically proven facts, confirmed by research and scientific communities. Oversimplification of scientific discoveries about the link between food and health can lead to completely wrong conclusions. Therefore, we have to be careful about how »sensationally« we write about food, and should not confuse people with »half-truths«. Think about what was already written on the harmfulness and benefits of butter and margarine alone, and about sugar and artificial sweeteners, tomato and carrot juice.

If we asked real nutritionists, they would assure you, based on everything that was thus far scientifically established, that it is absolutely impossible that milk fat, consumed through milk, would directly pass through the digestive tract into the circulatory system.

But let's proceed in order! The main body of milk fat (around 98 percent) is represented by triglycerides (triacylglycerols), which consist of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acid molecules (they may be identical or different). Fat is located in milk, in balls of fat (droplets), which are distributed in the water phase in the form of emulsion. It is produced in cells of the mammary gland. When fat exits the mammary gland cell, it covers itself with a membrane that contains many phospholipids and proteins. According to size, the balls of fat fall into three groups: small, with a diameter up to 1 micron, mid-size, with a diameter between 3 and 5 microns, and large, with a diameter between 8 and 10 microns. 70 to 90 percent of balls of fat in cow's and also human's milk belong to the first group. They are smaller than 1 micron and their size is the same as the balls that formed during homogenization. In fact, during homogenization larger balls break-up the smaller ones with a special procedure. Thus, the total surface of the balls (i.e. the surface through which enzymes, which break down fat cells, can affect fat during digestion) increases. The surface of the newly formed balls is covered by casein micelles and submicelles, and in a smaller extent by serum proteins. These substances would, as argued by the article published in your magazine, actually protect the balls of fat from the effect of the so called lipolytic enzymes, i.e. enzymes that break down fat, if it wasn’t for acid-sensitive caseins (low pH values) losing their electric charge (and also stability) in the stomach area. This is why they are easily accessible to digestive enzymes and thus easy to break down (and not the other way round!). Once caseins, which »protect« the droplets of fat, are broken down, the droplet of fat is not protected anymore from enzymes that break down fat. Based on these findings, scientific articles cite that homogenized fat is more easily digestible than non-homogenized.

After this simplified explanation, I will try to explain in the following text why balls of fat, even though very small, cannot »jump« through the intestinal wall and then stick to the walls of the circulatory system.

When we want to talk about how food influences health, we have to have at least basic knowledge of nutritional physiology, in our case the knowledge on digestion and absorption of fats. The process of digesting fat starts in the stomach, where with the aid of gastric acids and the movement of stomach muscles fat is distributed in the stomach's content in the form of emulsion. Milk fat, as opposed to other types of fat, does not enter the stomach in this form. Fat begins to be truly broken down in the small intestine (jejunum), where the lipase enzyme separates fat from fatty acids and glycerol and a small quantity of monoglycerides, whereas the phospholipase enzyme breaks down the phospholipids of the membranes. Proteins (also caseins) are starting to be broken down by the gastric acid and pepsin already in the stomach, and their digestion by proteolytic enzymes continues in the small intestine. The fat in the water mixture of the small intestine is not soluble. Smaller balls could quickly join creating bigger balls. For a successful functioning of lipase enzymes, special emulsifiers – bile acids have to keep these balls as small as possible, in the form of fine emulsion! Once fats are broken down to their components, these components (glycerol and fatty acids) penetrate (diffundate) in the form of small complexes, named micelles, the intestinal cells (enterocytes). There, the synthesis of fats starts again. In terms of their composition, these fats are different from fats present in digested food. Triglycerides that link together with phospholipids and apolipoproteins form hylomicrons, which also contain other products that were formed during the digestion of fat, such as cholesterol and liposoluble vitamins. Hylomicrons then enter the lymphatic system, and thus their journey through the body begins. However, hylomicrons are just one form of lipoproteins carrying fat around the body. But this is another complex story, with which we would be able, taking into consideration the quantity and components of the consumed fat, to explain in a much more detailed way the connection between food (fat) and the diseases of the heart and cardiovascular system as opposed to a simplified story, in which homogenized milk is the guilty party this time.

Is it possible to recycle homogenized milk?

There are many industries and technologies in the world today that make possible the production of final products even from raw material of lower quality. Milk processing does not allow this – quality dairy products can be produced only from quality milk. At Ljubljanske mlekarne we give special attention to this. We organized our care for product safety and quality into a comprehensive system that begins with raw milk quality control at the producer and ends when each individual product reaches the end consumer.

Returning expired products to production facilities is prohibited by law and we fully comply with this. This is also strictly verified by veterinary inspectors. At Ljubljanske mlekarne we carefully check all incoming raw materials or raw milk, which must be truly fresh, and the time between the milking and the acceptance in the dairy must be the shortest possible. We also verify that milk complies with all quality regulations prescribed by the applicable law of the European Union.

What do the numbers on the bottom of the milk's Tetra Pak packaging mean?

The packaging supplier of our milk is the company Tetra Pak, which explained to us what the numbers printed on the bottom mean. The packaging is printed on several belts simultaneously, which have to be numbered for tracking reasons. The number 12 45, for example, means that the packaging was printed at the third belt in the production process.

Milk processing procedures

Pasteurization

With pasteurization we extend the durability and preserve the quality of milk. It is a thermal processing procedure at a temperature up to 76 °C that lasts 45 seconds. This procedure decreases the content of harmful or pathogenic microorganisms in milk, which could cause diseases, deterioration or unwanted fermentation, and at the same time activates the enzymes in milk. Pasteurization has been known since the 19th century – the process is named after Louis Pasteur, who used thermal processing for preventing the deterioration of wine and milk.

Homogenization

The main purpose of homogenization is to prevent or slow down the surfacing of balls of fat in milk. Milk fat is present in milk in the form of balls of fat of various sizes (from 0.1 do 20 micrometres). Their specific density (0.93 g/ml) is less than water, causing them to surface. Consequently, a layer of milk fat, also known as cream, forms on the surface of non-homogenized milk. We can prevent this with homogenization – we mechanically break down the balls of fat into smaller ones with a diameter up to one micrometer (one millionth of a metre).

Sterilization

Sterilization enables us to store dairy products for a longer time, even at a room temperature. It is a thermal processing of milk with which we destroy all microorganisms and their spores, and we inactivate the enzymes. Scientific literature defines short-life sterilized milk as UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk, which means that milk is thermally processed for a very short time (4-8 seconds) at very high temperatures ranging from 135 to 150 °C.

Microfiltration

Milk on the shelves must be completely safe and at the same time delicious. With microfiltration we remove microorganisms from milk and thus extend its expiration date, while keeping its flavour unaltered. The process is carried out using membranes that have suitably-sized pores. Only skimmed milk is micro-filtrated, which means that before processing it we remove all the fat and then reinsert it in a precise percentage. With this process we remove 99.5% of bacteria and up to 99.9% of spores, thus providing to the consumer completely safe milk.

Lactose intolerance

What is lactose intolerance?

Milk is very beneficial to our health and provides us with many good substances. Despite this, some people have problems with digesting dairy products. This is caused by lactose intolerance (hypolactation), a disease that prevents the normal metabolism of the milk sugar (lactose). It is one of the most frequent disorders of metabolisms in humans; however, this disease is not well-known to the wider public.

Perhaps, many of them are not even aware that they can consume suitable milk despite their problems and simply exclude all dairy products from their diet. This could be harmful to health, since milk and dairy products contain numerous vitamins and minerals, such as A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, E and others, which prevent various diseases, among which osteoporosis is the most common. This is not recommended due to the many benefits of milk, this is why Ljubljanske mlekarne also offers dairy products that do not contain milk sugar.

There are various factors that affect the metabolism of lactose in the human body. One of the most important is the quality of consumed lactose (i.e. cow's milk contains 50 g/l, while breast milk contains 75 g/l), and the quantity of consumed lactose that remained in the digestive tract in adults. Beside these two factors, the time of food travelling from consumption to secretion and the ability of the intestinal micro-flora to metabolise lactose are also important.

The occurrence of lactose intolerance

We know several types of lactose intolerance that have different symptoms. After being born, most children develop the ability to secrete the lactase enzyme, which enables lactose in breast milk to break down to glucose and galactose. A child needs increasingly more energy for a healthy growth and development. For this reason, children have to obtain several nutrients and breast milk is soon not sufficient anymore. Eventually, a child's diet will require many other types of food (fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, cereals, etc.).

With changed eating habits the ability of the lactase enzyme to break down into glucose and galactose decreases, but not in the same way for everyone. In some people the activity of the lactase enzyme decreases to such an extent as to cause intestinal problems. Physicians often diagnose such symptoms as lactose intolerance.

Some people cannot metabolize lactose also due to the deficiency for the enzyme ß-galactosidase, which breaks down lactose, and have consequently problems already in their childhood. In those individuals, the activity of this enzyme increases to the highest level after birth and keeps increasing for a few days after, when the digestive surface is expanding. In late childhood, the activity of the enzyme ß-galactosidase decreases, in 70% of the world population even to the level which causes lactose intolerance in adults.

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