Saturday 5 July 2014

The white stuff

I was talking, yesterday, in a very elliptical way, about The Black Stuff which is the endearing colloquialism for The Guinness which many claim in Ireland's national dhrink. That's fair enough but a case could be made that the Irish anti-drink is milk bainne.  The Irish for white is bán, I used to believe in the same way that anglophones call orange the colour after orange the fruit that bán was the colour like milk. But one of the young-women-of-science with whom I'm working in Dublin this Summer is a gaelgoir from the Donegal (Dún na nGall to her) and she enquired of her aunt who is a scholar of antient Irish and told me bán comes from braon, a drop or blob. ANNyway, several years ago, I started to buy powered milk, maybe after we ditched our microwave oven and I could no longer make cocoa-on-milk without washing a saucepan.  I know we demonize Nestlé for promoting milk-powder in the third-world but I found that, in the Asia Market and other ethnic shops I could buy large or small quantities of Nido Full Cream Milk Powder in a tin.  My tool-shed now has rows of Nido tins full of bolts, nails, spanners and drill-bits. It works out at about €10/kg which compares favourably with what we have to pay for whole milk after your reconstitute the powder.  It gets a little cheaper if you buy bigger quantities. You buy it in 'Indian' shops because the women of the sub-continent use it to create Gulab Jamun which are sweet dumplings made by boiling milk to reduce it.

This contented my parsimonious soul until I became head bottle-feeder of the three orphan ewe-lambs this May. This requires making up a helluva lot of bottles of reconstituted powdered milk, and going out to buy bagsful of it [L] in the local hardware stores.  Weirdly we have discovered that Lamlac in not available for sale in Co Waterford - presumably because there aren't any sheep down there.  The bags are €14-€15 for 5kg and are made up with at the rate of 200g/lt.  WTF!? it's 1/3rd the price of Nido.  So I think I won't be buying the human-consumption stuff much longer.  The difference is likely to be that Nido is milk with a dash of soya lecithin as an emulsifier, whereas Lamlac is a product: whey protein; palm & coconut oil [whichever is cheaper?]; hydrolysed wheat gluten; Calcium carbonate; Magnesium Oxide.  And "additives": vit A; vit D3; vit E; Fe 80mg; Zn 50mg; Mn 30mg; I 0.25mg; Se 0.2mg; Co 0.2mg. With the shameful amount of gluten in the mix, we can rest assured that none of the three orphan lambs has coeliac disease. So Lamlac looks like milk but 'tis a long way from milk is was r'ared.

I was down in St Mullins the other day and Rene was going on about the cost of 'breast-milk' in the supermarkets.  It took me a while to grasp that he was talking about SMA and similar mixtures for mixing up with water and putting into a bottle with variable amounts of leaching BPA or BPS and then feeding it to your mosssst presssscioussss. Now I knew that baby formula wasn't human breast-milk - I'm not simple - just as I know that lambs don't get sheep's milk.  But I was surprised at what it actually is:
Lactose (milk), vegetable oils including structured vegetable oil (palm, soya, sunflower and coconut in varying proportions), skimmed milk, whey protein concentrate enriched in alpha-lactalbumin (milk), emulsifier (soya lecithin), sodium citrate, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (AA, DHA), calcium chloride, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, L-tyrosine, vitamin C, choline chloride, potassium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, taurine, potassium chloride, inositol, ferrous sulphate, nucleotides (cytidine-, disodium uridine-, adenosine-, disodium guanosine-, disodium inosine-5’-monophosphate), zinc sulphate, L-tryptophan, L-carnitine, antioxidants (ascorbyl palmitate, tocopherol-rich extract), vitamin E, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, thiamin, copper sulphate, vitamin B6, riboflavin, vitamin D, folic acid, manganese sulphate, potassium iodide, vitamin K, biotin, sodium selenite, vitamin B12.
It reads like they've walked down the stock-shelves of the Institute's biochemistry lab and shook in something from every third bottle. Why would you, as a mother, want to horse all that wholly artificial crap down your baby's throat, when you are provided with two breasts which are shaped by 2 million years of evolution to deliver a far better product for a lot less than €12-€13/kg?  I can't follow my own logic here.  If Nido is milk and Lamlac costs less because it is made up from the sweepings of the world commodity markets, why does SMA come with a 20-30% premium?  Ladies, you have been sold a bill of goods! SMA is since 2012 a wholly-owned subsidiary of . . . Nestlé.

But Irish ladies have bought into this business model at truly frightening rates. While 75% of mothers will breast-feed their newborns at least once (huzzah *), by the time they leave the maternity wing only 45% are still doing so, this collapses to 14% at 60 days and only 1% at 6 months.  This is among the lowest rates in Europe: hence my quip about the white stuff being the anti-drink of Ireland.  But if you insist on using your breasts for some other purpose - filling your push-up bra "for the sexy lift & cleavage you love", perhaps? - at least consider saving a mort o' money and using Lamlac instead: my ewe-lambs are thriving on it. And wean them onto sheep nuts - far cheaper than granola.

(*) Sir Thomas Beecham: "In this life try everything once, except morris-dancing and incest".

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