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Spring 2003 - Food

Destination Purdue > Spring 2003 - Food

Food for thought

By Sophia Voravong

"Got Milk?" Students in Kirby Hayes' food science class are practically swimming in it.

Professor Kirby Hayes

Photos by Sophia Voravong

Food Science Assistant Professor Kirby Hayes demonstrates the curd piling process for cheddar cheese. After three weeks, the cheddar will mature and be ready for consumption.

FS 368: "Dairy Products" revolves entirely around milk, and students use the product to create everything from fried mozzarella cheese sticks to coffee creamers. The first day of class begins in the laboratory where students take a stab at making cheddar cheese. Over the semester, students make 12 to 14 milk-based products.

Hayes, food science assistant professor, said the class makes products that people are familiar with, such as yogurt, but in past semesters, students also have created Oreo ice cream and milk-based caramel candies.

The class focuses on preventing milk from spoiling, which begins once it's extracted from a cow. Then through a fermentation process, milk is preserved, and different products can be created by varying factors such as temperature and air exposure.

"Students are startled to hear that all milk contains bacteria," Hayes said. "However, in pasteurized milk they are not the kind of bacteria that can make you sick." Students discover how different products can be derived from milk by eliminating bad bacteria, he added.

"Food science revolves around a continuum – taking a material and preventing it from spoilage," Hayes said. "It is this approach in the dairy products class that spurs excitement in students."

Junior Carrie Burbrink, a food science major from Columbus, Ind., said the class was a unique way to introduce food science concepts. "We learned the (fermentation) process behind yogurt, then went into the lab and made it step by step," she said. "It tasted better than the store-bought kind."

The course is a combination of lectures and laboratory experiments. The lectures explain various theories behind food processes, and students then use those theories in the labs. Hayes said this hands-on approach to learning keeps the class interesting by showing students the connection among the theory, practice and product.

"It's always exciting for students to consume the products they create," Hayes said. Junior Elizabeth Finke, an agricultural sales and marketing major from Hope, Ind., said making mozzarella cheese sticks was her favorite experiment. "We made the cheese, shaped it into sticks, rolled them in bread crumbs and fried them during lab," she said. "They were so good!"

Hayes also added that the course follows food industry rules and regulations in the laboratory. During experiments, students are required to wear hair nets and wash/sanitize all equipment before and after use.

"I remind students that they will consume the products they make, just like in the real world," he said. And just like in the real world, products don't always work out. "To the students, it's all about trial and error," Hayes said.