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A dairy product or milk product is food produced from the milk of mammals. Dairy products are usually high energy-yielding food products. A production plant for the processing of milk is called a dairy or a dairy factory. Apart from breastfed infants, the human consumption of dairy products is sourced primarily from the milk of cows, yet goats, sheep, yaks, horses, camels, domestic buffaloes, and other mammals are other sources of dairy products consumed by humans. Dairy products are commonly found in European, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine, whereas aside from Mongolian cuisine they are little-known in traditional Asian cuisines.
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Dairy plants process the raw milk they receive from farmers so as to extend its marketable life. Two main types of processes are employed: heat treatment to ensure the safety of milk for human consumption and to lengthen its shelf-life, and dehydrating dairy products such as butter, hard cheese and milk powders so that they can be stored.
Importance and scope:
While most countries produce their own milk products, the structure of the dairy industry varies in different parts of the world. In major milk-producing countries most milk is distributed through whole sale markets. In Ireland and Australia, for example, farmers' co-operatives own many of the large-scale processors, while in the United States many farmers and processors do business through individual contracts. In the United States, the country's 196 farmers' cooperatives sold 86% of milk in the U.S. in 2002, with five cooperatives accounting for half that. This was down from 2,300 cooperatives in the 1940s. In developing countries, the past practice of farmers marketing milk in their own neighborhoods is changing rapidly. Notable developments include considerable foreign investment in the dairy industry and a growing role for dairy cooperatives. Output of milk is growing rapidly in such countries and presents a major source of income growth for many farmers. As in many other branches of the food industry, dairy processing in the major dairy producing countries has become increasingly concentrated, with fewer but larger and more efficient plants operated by fewer workers. This is notably the case in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In 2009, charges of anti-trust violations have been made against major dairy industry players in the United States.
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