Laura Ward, Germany, June 12, 2012

University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo) and GeorgAugustUniversity, Göttingen

The weather was beautiful today, and we spent the morning in Hannover touring the TiHo Clinic for Cattle.  Then, Prof. Dr. Günter Klein warmly welcomed us to his Institute for Food Quality and Food Safety at TiHo, where we learned about dairy hygiene and enjoyed a beautiful lunch.  That afternoon, we travelled to the Georg-August-University Göttingen in Lower Saxony to learn about food quality and engage in some fun activities.  It was a very interesting and interactive day!


Klinik für Rinder (Clinic for Cattle, TiHo, Hannover)

This morning, Dr. Klaas Strüve gave us a tour through the cattle clinic, where they see mostly Holsteins (~90%) and some meat breeds.   At this facility, education is strongly emphasized, and veterinary students engage in all procedures under doctoral supervision.  Students first spend two years in lectures, during which they also observe procedures performed on live animals in a large demonstration hall, and they subsequently observe cases in clinics and write reports on what they have seen.  This facility typically sees about 5000 patients and takes 80 to 90 students each year, so students often choose this facility for one of their 10-week rotations.  Six to eight cows are set aside specifically for students in practicals, who perform rectal exams every two days and practice staging the estrous cycle.  Other major teaching procedures include claw treatments and surgeries, such as abomasal fixations, rumenotomies, amputations, joint flushes, Caesarean sections, and surgical lancing of reticular abscesses.  Abomasal fixations comprise ninety percent of the surgeries performed at about 1-2 per day, and endoscopy is also available at the hospital for this procedure.  Students are also allowed to perform ultrasonographic examinations to investigate several conditions (e.g. foreign bodies in the reticulum, peritonitis, etc.).  Sedation isn’t used during these exams based on the results of recent stress hormone studies, but students are able to use local anesthetics if an animal is painful.


Research is also emphasized at the TiHo cattle facility.  We touched on ongoing research in embryo transfer and saw the hospital’s resident fistulated cow (a hermaphrodite!), which serves a dual purpose – s/he primarily provides a source of rumen fluid for patients that are very ill but is also used in research.  TiHo also houses the smallest bull station in the European Union with a current total of three bulls.  They were formerly used in studies but are presently used for education.


Biosecurity is also an important element of this facility, which was evident from the moment we donned our plastic booties and set foot on the grounds.  Two trucks are available for transporting patients to and from the facility, and owners are also given the option of bringing the patients in directly.  We were told that 20 years ago, the facility had 6 trucks and saw about 4,500 patients per year; the number of trucks has since decreased as infectious disease control has heightened.  The trucks are disinfected between every use, and isolation is a critical aspect of both transportation and hospitalization.  There are 60 places for in-hospital patients (although the hospital typically doesn’t see more than 40 at one time), and samples are taken weekly for diseases such as IBR and BHV-1.  No equipment is shared between the horse and cow facilities.


In light of the cattle facility’s strong emphasis on education, the services provided here are very low-cost and highly subsidized by the government; for instance, transportation to and from the clinic, surgery, and three days of hospitalization can cost merely 250 euros.  This experience provided us with a stark contrast to cattle operations within American universities.

Panīr Manufacture at the Institute for Food Quality and Food Safety

Dr. Nils Grabowski provided us with a fascinating lecture on Indian culture, dairy processing, and panīr manufacture…and then allowed us to make and taste our own panīr!


India is a land of many opposing ideas and languages – there are 415 living languages, several different writing systems, and six major religions.  Hinduism and Islam make up the two most practiced religions, respectively, and both strongly revere milk as part of Indian culture, as it can be obtained painlessly and holds religious significance.  It is illegal to kill cows in most of India (except after some rituals) as they are venerated as holy, but this presents many problems – namely that old and dry cattle are a burden when one has a family to feed, and these cattle are often abandoned or end up in “cow shelters, which are mostly funded by wealthy Hindus.

India is the leading nation in milk production, producing nearly 40 million tons of cow milk (vs. nearly 30 million tons in Germany) and over 50 million tons of buffalo milk each year!  While it is possible to directly consume raw milk, contamination from enteric pathogens and resulting diseases such as Q fever, salmonellosis, brucellosis, and listeriosis are always a concern, especially in children.  In the U.S., raw milk can be consumed but not sold; in contrast, raw milk can be sold in Germany but is strongly controlled (e.g. must be sold within 96 hours).  Many delectable milk products can be made through standard processing protocols.  Milk is heated and stirred to make khoa, a common base for desserts, and different types of khoa are produced using evaporation.  Fermentation can reduce the growth of pathogens and yield dahi, which can then be used to produce treats like lassi (dahi and water, fruit, and/or spices) or mishit doi (fermented khoa).


Making panīr was unexpectedly easy, and I can’t wait to try it at home!  You first heat the milk to 70-85°C and then add an acidifier (we used lemon juice; you can add vinegar, but it surprisingly results in less flavor).  Once the milk curdles, you can stop and pour the mixture into a container with a strainer, such as cheesecloth.  Then, add pressure and let it sit for about a day.  The more pressure and time you give it, the drier and denser it will be.  It is best consumed within 3-6 days when refrigerated, but it can be frozen for up to 3 months.  After we finished, Dr. Grabowski made us Shahi panīr for lunch by mixing onion, chilies, garlic, tomatoes, dried apricots, dates, raisins, cashew nuts, and several spices with our concoction!  I decided today that I’m going to eat more Indian food!

Georg-August- Universität in Göttingen

After we had our delicious lunch, Dr. Carsten Krischek took us to learn about sensory research. Dr. Daniel Mӧrlein, who has worked with the University for 6 years, spoke with us about sensory perception, particularly taste and smell, and how these senses relate to food quality.  We engaged in an activity to demonstrate the difference between orthonasal and retronasal olfaction and learned of an experiment performed in the 1930s, which determined that one can’t tell the difference between an apple and an onion without retronasal olfaction.  Dr. Mӧrlein then took us into the tasting laboratory, which was engineered to minimize distraction (i.e. isolated booths, vigorous ventilation, controlled lighting), and we proceeded to participate in a taste test trial to distinguish the five different tastes – sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami.  We established that some tastes require more sample than others and saw how the order of samples could change results in that earlier samples could create references for later ones.

We then participated in a series of odor tests.  We began with identification of everyday odors and subsequently took part in the triangle test, the most frequently used test in sensory science.  This test uses three samples – two of the same and one different – and the assessor tries the 1st and 2nd samples, then the 2nd and 3rd, and then the 3rd and 1st.  This exercise was ultimately used to demonstrate how assessors prefer or accept different concentrations of androstenones and skatoles, two compounds present in the meat of intact boars.  Low concentrations of these pheromones are often used in perfume and confections, but they can be aversive to some at higher concentrations.

This is an important current issue for Germany to investigate because the country is aiming to stop the castration of piglets, a common, albeit controversial practice to produce taint-free meat, by 2017.

Pizzeria Bei Mario (Hannover)

We ate dinner in a beautiful area outside this classy pizzeria!  There was a variety of Italian-style food on the menu.  I had the Montepulciano rot (red wine), mixed salad with yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomato, and cucumber, and the asparagus and ricotta ravioli with cream sauce.  The company was great, and the food was delicious!  Che bellissima!