Milk is a staple in almost every home, and we consume so much of it that an industry is made entirely based on milk. But, did you know milk every milk is not equal? It’s nutrition and texture is highly dependent on what the cows eat, and how is the milk processed before it reaches us. I knew organic milk was the way to go, but other than that I thought milk is milk. But, oh boy, how wrong was I.
One Saturday morning we got into the conversation of how much we are liking the pasture raised eggs that we just started getting at our local grocery store. And, we thought it would be amazing if we could find milk from pasture-raised cows.
My hubby being the health enthusiast he is, started looking around for milk from farms with sustainable practices. To our surprise, we found a creamery less than 2 miles from our home, their milk is from Pasture Raised cows, and it’s Pasteurized at low temperature in small batches and is not homogenized.
I was amazed at the difference between this milk and the Organic Milk we brought from the grocery store. I am a fan of this milk, and I’m sold forever. So, I started looking into the reason why is there such a huge difference in taste, texture, and thickness of the milk. I found so much information on this that we should be made aware of in the first place.
Here I go;
First things first; What is Pasteurization?
the process of heating a liquid (as milk) to a temperature high enough and keeping it at that temperature long enough to kill many objectionable germs and then cooling it rapidly without causing a major change in its chemical composition
So, Pasteurization increases the shelf life of milk, and secondly, it helps kill pathogenic bacteria which reduce transmission of various foodborne disease. Unfortunately subjecting milk to high heat also kills the beneficial enzymes, vitamins and good bacteria in the milk.
The chemical composition of milk is majorly considered to be a mixture of water, fat, protein and sugar. Since the enzymes, vitamins, and good bacteria are present in very low volume in milk, their degeneration is not much looked into by our Food Safety Regulating Organizations. These important nutrients may be present in a little amount, but they are so precious and almost irreplaceable.
Milk is subjected to varying temperatures and time to pasteurize it. This affects how much it’s composition changes, and how much bacteria is killed in it. When milk is heated over 150℉ almost all the bacteria is killed in it, good and bad.
Here is a comparison of the three levels of pasteurization that is done on milk, that we get in the US.
Low-Temperature Pasteurization: Milk is heated to 145℉ ( 63℃) for 30 minutes in small batches, then packaged under clean and sanitized condition. Shelf life is 12-21 days.
High-Temperature Pasteurization: Milk is heated to 161℉ (72℃) for a minimum of 15 seconds, then packaged under clean and sanitized condition. Shelf life is 12-21 days, often higher.
Ultra Pasteurization: Milk is heated at 280℉ for 2 seconds, then it is packaged under sterile conditions, and the packages are treated with hydrogen peroxide. Shelf life 30-90 days.
This makes it look like Pasteurization is good, Ultra is even better. Not true!
The sad part is when milk is treated at such a high temperatures, it doesn’t only kill harmful pathogenic bacteria, that the milk may have, it also kills the healthy bacteria in milk. Not just bacteria, ultra-pasteurization degenerates sugar, protein, enzymes, and vitamins in the milk. That’s almost all the nutrition of milk other than fat and water.
On the other hand, Low Temp Pasteurization also known as VAT is a much gentler process for the milk. It retains a very high percentage of healthy bacteria, beneficial enzymes, and vitamins that the milk is supposed to have. This milk has a lot creamier and richer texture. It’s easier to digest since you are saving all the nutrients in the milk as it’s supposed to be.
Most of the milk present in the market is regularly pasteurized milk. But the milk that needs to be stable for longer, like Organic milk (since it sells less than conventional milk) is Ultra pasteurized. So, all the hard work to get the Organic milk; extra precautions while feeding the cows, good nutrition, balanced fat, vitamins everything goes down the drain, all the because it’s Ultra-pasteurized to increase the shelf life.
A lot of people feel that Ultra-pasteurized milk has a “cooked flavor”. The very high temperature during ultra-pasteurization caramelizes the sugar in the milk. This is known to be less popular in the US since people don’t prefer the flavor, so most milk is regularly pasteurized and not ultra-pasteurized. However, a lot of companies are opting for ultra-pasteurizing the non-organic also milk these days, since they want to increase the shelf life.
I’m all about weighing risks and benefits. Yes, Pasteurization is good, but Ultra-pasteurization seems like too much to me. We are highly reducing the potency of milk to increase the shelf life of the milk, so it has a longer sell by date.
Have you tried the Low-Temperature Pasteurized Milk? Does it taste richer and creamier to you too, or is it just me?