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Lareina Xi

Master’s student, Department of Food Science, Ontario Agricultural College 

Research focus: Improving dairy food quality at the farm level 

Lareina Xi
Photo by Hanne Goetz

Lareina Xi chose to complete her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science at the University of Guelph with aspirations to pursue veterinary medicine, however, she found a passion for animal health and nutrition and decided to explore graduate studies in the Department of Food Science at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).

During her undergraduate degree, she received a great deal of nutrition education but felt that she didn’t learn what was being consumed by animals. She found that researchers often refer to animals as consuming “food” and “nutrients” separately, so she wanted to learn about microbiology to gain a deeper understanding. She also hopes to learn about probiotics and prebiotics and to take the knowledge she learns in graduate school to improve the feline milk replacer industry. 

In Lareina’s Master’s degree by thesis, she is supervised by Dr. Gisèle LaPointe in OAC’s Department of Food Science and an additional committee member, Dr. Katie Wood, from the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. In her research, she is collecting data at an on-farm cheese production factory where the milk from the dairy farm goes directly into cheese production within a day. She visits the facility to look at known spots in production where biofilms commonly form at milk producing farms – such as factory surfaces, pipeline exits, milking cups, and other farm surfaces that the milk comes into contact with – to see if any environmental bacteria go into the milk and ends up in the cheese.  

Simultaneously, fellow master’s student Tara Wilson collects similar samples at the cheese production end of the processing facility.  

Prior to this study, this type of research had only been done in large-scale, industrial settings where milk arrives from multiple dairy farms and not at an on- farm processing facility. This research will help to understand if there is a direct link between environment milk products. 

Lareina finds it rewarding to have the opportunity to visit factories and learn about how food is produced. She also says that seeing changes in the bacteria counts measured in samples they collect adds variety to her days and keeps things interesting. She hopes to take the skills she has developed in graduate school and work in the companion animal food industry or work with small farm businesses to help identify areas where they could improve milk quality. 

Written by Hanne Goetz

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