Cow’s milk and malai (cream): why Indians like high fat% in milk



Indians at large prefer full fat (6% to 8%) milk. For them, it’s the measure of how good the milk is. At first this is baffling as rest of the world is trying to reduce the fat intake its diet. Their focus is on protein and other nutritients.

Why is that?

The question puzzled me immensely for a while now. So, I decided to talk to many of our customers and many who refused to buy from us as pure cow milk is naturally lower in fat. The key reasons that I could infer are…

  1. A measure of quality – Historically milk in India was delivered by a local milkman. These milkmen were notorious for mixing water in the milk. This could easily be detected by the resulting lower fat content (lower cream production, read thinner malai). So in due course of time, high fat content milk became synonym with higher quality milk.
  2. A multi-purpose product – Frequently the household will extract butter, ghee and other products from the raw milk before drinking it. A high fat content milk will yield higher amount of butter which is a popular cooking ingredient in Indian cooking.
  3. Obese appearance – In India an obese person is often considered a wealthy person. A high fat percentage (6% to 8%) milk helps with obesity. The attitude may be changing but the old habits die hard.

This is my very unscientific survey. More extensive and scientific studies need to be conducted to understand the habits and how it affects the health of millions of people. Meanwhile, it suffices to say that one should re-examine the beliefs regarding the high fat content milk. May be there was a reason (low fat content among others) why our ancestors preferred natural cow milk!

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