For most of us, drinking a glass of milk is just that, sipping down milk. The in-depth thoughts about the milk and its contents never really cross the mind unless that mind belongs to professor Phil Tong.
Tong, director of the Dairy Products Technology Center, has been in the dairy industry for over 20 years, and some of his recent work has earned him an International Dairy Foods Association Research Award.
The purpose of the award is to acknowledge researchers in the dairy science field. Tong was the 13th person to win the award, and it was because of his research in dairy ingredients processing, functionality and composition control.
“The greatest benefit to me is the recognition by my peers,” Tong said.
Other perks of winning the award are Cal Poly being noticed for its strong dairy science programs and the attention will help with recruiting new students and faculty, he said.
It will also bring attention to technology and research in the dairy science field, Tong said.
“(The award) opens the eyes to people outside the (dairy) field,” he said.
In order to be a candidate, a person has to be nominated and must give documentation of the last five years of work, he said. Candidates are then judged by a group of jurors that are previous award winners or members of the association, he said.
Tong was recognized for studies he did on dairy calcium, cream cheese, yogurt and dairy ingredient standardization.
His work with dairy calcium was developing a process to produce lower lactose milk protein while retaining more calcium. The process used was ultra-filtration technology that relies on semipermeable membranes with small pores, he said.
Other areas he has worked in are better understanding the factors that influence cream cheese texture and also the effect of whey protein on yogurt texture. Tong has also done work with ice cream and cheese.
“We have done a lot of work over the years with cheese,” he said.
Tong’s work is not exclusive to the United States but also spreads out to other countries. Countries that he has a particular interest in are China, Mexico and Southeast Asia.
He is working with groups to help educate on potential food processing and improving existing ones, he said. The point is to make good nutritional products, Tong said.
Tong is mostly interested in China because dairy is not a particular staple of the Chinese diet but it is becoming more evolved, he said.
“They are just starting to develop tastes that are westernized,” Tong said.
Dairy science does not mean just milk, cheese and ice cream, he said. It is also taking dairy ingredients and making foods that people would not normally think are made of milk products.
Items that contain milk products but really are not known for them are confections, baked goods and whey-solids, he said. Whey is important because it is used in body-building products, he said.
“Milk can get outside the traditional dairy cases,” Tong said.