Friday, January 2, 2015

Why does some organic milk have a later expiration date?

Today while I was (ironically) in the grocery store, I got a text from Jay Hill, one of the other Faces of Farming and Ranching.  He said his sister was in town and she had questions about organic milk ... could I talk to her?

She asked the same questions that almost all of my mom friends have asked me:  Do I need to be buying organic, or is it just marketing?  Am I worried about antibiotics and hormones in non-organic milk?  Do I feed my kids organic food?

We talked for awhile - I had to park my cart so I could give her my full attention.  At one point when I was engrossed in our conversation, my son held my hands down and whispered, "You don't need to move your hands when you talk."

I told her my views:  I buy conventionally grown food, all milk is free of antibiotics, and I feed my kids conventionally grown food.  I'd never feed my kids something that I thought was harmful to them.  I'm happy for the choices available, but I know that we farm with food safety in mind, and conventionally-grown food is my farm and purchasing choice.

She said, "Do you think all farmers are like you and Jay?"

I do!  The farmers I know are proud of what they do, and they do it well.  Like I always say ... we live here and eat here too!

One question she asked is something that I haven't addressed here:  Why does some organic milk have a later expiration date?

Great question!  Here's the answer:

Organic milk lasts longer because producers use a different process to preserve it.  The milk often needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since there are fewer organic farms.

What's that process?

Well, you're probably familiar with pasteurization.  There are three types for milk:

- Low temperature, long time:  Milk is heated to 145 degrees F for 30 minutes. (Not common.)

- High temperature, short time: Milk is heated to 160 degrees F for 15 seconds. (Standard.)

- Ultrahigh temperature: Milk is heated to 280 degrees F for at 2-4 seconds.

Pasteurization doesn't kill all the bacteria in milk, just the ones that cause disease.  Ultra pasteurization kills everything.

If we're killing off bacteria, why not kill it all?  Well, the heat destroys some of the milk's vitamin content, and affects some proteins.  Also, not all bacteria contained in milk is harmful, and many of the cultures that thrive benefit the human digestive system.

It also tastes a little different - it burns some of the sugars, so it's sweeter. So it's not that it's organic that it lasts longer on the shelves, it's because it's been heated up to a higher temperature.  An added benefit is that the long shelf life is useful for many people.

And that's the story on pasteurization!  So if you have any dairy-related questions, go ahead and contact me.  You can be sure that when I answer, I'll be gesturing wildly with my hands.  

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6 comments:

Therese Churan said...

Good information. Thank you.

Carla said...

Thank you, Therese! I'm glad you liked reading about it.

Anonymous said...

Both Organic Valley's and Horizon's website state that BOTH regular pasteurized milk and ultra pasteurized are available and labeled as such in store. UHT pasteurization is used mainly for moving milk to different countries, not because of the lack of organic farms. Also, it states that UHT pasteurization kills more of the bacteria, not all of it. Read for yourself.

http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/milk/pasteurization/

http://www.horizondairy.com/faqs

Carla said...

Yes! There are a variety of choices from dairy processors. The UHT works well for milk that has a long way to travel - whether that's overseas or in the US. It states on the Organic Valley site you cited that HTST kills 99.9% of bacteria, and that UHT kills a "larger percentage of bacteria" than that. I guess bacteria always sneaks in - as Scientific American states, we have 10 times more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells!
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/

Esha Collin said...

I was looking for articles on Benefits of Milk and I came across yours inspiring read. Great post!

Mitali Mahadik said...

Hey Nice blog!! really the nutrients in milk are important, without adulteration.But which milk is beneficial is big questionmark.i refer you few fresh milk available in india:
http://www.prideofcows.com/contact-us/
http://astradairy.in/
http://www.sardafarms.com/