So this is the situation. Human tastings are a crucial component in milk safety evaluations and by extension the dairy industry as a whole. So the Future Farmers of America (FFA) have an event called the Milk Quality and Products Career Development. A big part of it is a milk tasting contest for high school students, and the competitors go big.
Teams from different high schools around the country do milk tasting and then evaluate the quality, flavor and overall freshness of the milk. They're tasting for things like notes of garlic or onion, a salty flavor, anything bitter or acrid, or a malty flavor. An especially unappetizing note they are looking out for is anything that tastes like blood. Some of these flavors just come from a cow's diet and are undesirable, but some can signal problems with a given batch of milk.
To prepare for the event, students practice in class and after school. And Modern Farmer reports that winning teams tend to succeed when students devote even more time. At Nonnewaug High School in Connecticut students practice on weekends too. And that training is important because the competition is fierce. Everyone is marking down their evaluations quickly on Scantron sheets, and some students bring aides like palette cleansers to help keep their senses primed.
The contest isn't feeding these kids bad milk though. A few granules of onion or garlic powder, vinegar, and even pennies get added to the milk before the samples are passed around. But even if it's not real sour milk, the prizes are legit. Students can win $400 to $1,000 for themselves or their teams. And there are other contests like industrial equipment ID and milk pricing, but tasting seems to be the main event. It's going down starting tomorrow through next Saturday at the FFA national convention in Louisville. The next time you pour milk on your cereal remember that generations of dairy workers trained in their teen years to keep everything tasting normal. [Modern Farmer]