Recently, when I searched for the various options for milk deliveries to my home, I became aware of the different types of milk and more research gave me a whole new perspective of milk, the dairy industry and the marketing gimmicks that get the better of consumers.

Basically, raw milk is milk which we get directly from the cow (or goat, etc. – I will stick with cow in this post). i.e. the milk that leaves the cow’s udders is raw milk. Given below are some details on the typical processes that raw milk undergoes.

 

SL# PROCESS WHAT IS IT? WHY IT EXITS?
1. Pasteurization Heating Milk to ~72C for a very brief period (~15 seconds). To kill all harmful bacteria, but not all bacteria.
2. Homogenization Passing milk through tiny holes/tubes at a very high pressure. To break up fat molecules and separate the fat/cream from water in the milk. Provides more aesthetic value.
3. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) Heat milk to very high temperatures (~ 135C) and pack into sterile containers. To kill all bacteria. Long shelf life and no refrigeration required, until opened.

 

The most common milk available in supermarkets in the UK is standardized, pasteurized, homogenized milk. When I pick up a bottle of milk in the supermarket, I see “Standardized, Pasteurized and Homogenized” milk – like it’s all good for you. Let me explain this little ad on the milk bottles.

According to an article on the Journal of Dairy Science website, Van Slyke defines standardized (or adjusted) milk as “milk in which the original fat content has been changed, and also the ratio of fat to the other milk solids, by the removal of milk-fat, or by the addition of skim-milk, or by the addition of cream.” This explains the skimmed and semi-skimmed milk. So, standardized milk means tampered milk. i.e. milk whose constituents are modified.

Pasteurization of raw milk is required as a bacteria-free dairy farm and milk handling/transportation cannot be guaranteed (that’s why the sale of raw milk is illegal in many countries – all sold milk must be at least pasteurized). Pasteurized milk is also referred to as Fresh Milk. UHT is just taking pasteurization a step further for the convenience of storage.

Homogenization is done for aesthetic purposes (and perhaps for smoother taste). There have been concerns about homogenization in medical circles. In his book “The XO factor”, Kurt Oster suggests that homogenization of milk causes an enzyme in milk called Xanthine Oxidase, to break up and pass undigested through the human intestine and into the blood stream where it can eventually destroy arteries and lead to heart disease. Oster’s theory has not been proved till date, but homogenization is not required for safety and is a redundant process that simply takes us away further from natural, raw milk.

So, in that little ad on milk bottles, the only required process is Pasteurization, which does not alter the composition of milk (apart from killing harmful bacteria). However, Standardization and Homogenization alter the fundamental composition of milk and are redundant. Arla Dairies runs a TV ad for its Cravendale milk brand, with a catchy slogan like “Cravendale tastes so good cows want it back”. Cravendale milk actually goes through another “filtration” process which Arla Dairies claims removes even more bacteria (middle ground between pasteurization and UHT). If cows actually taste Cravendale milk, they may not even recognize it, given the amount of processing it’s undergone.

Finally, I decided to consume milk in a form which is as close to raw milk in composition, but safe for consumption. So, I started consuming Pasteurized, Unhomogenized milk (Gold Top) and it takes me back to my younger days – when my Mum would boil the milk we get and we’d see a lot of cream form at the top during cooling. And my coffees and teas taste better!

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