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Organic Milk: Not As Healthy As You Think?

Think all organic milk is healthy? It may not be as healthy as you think.

Is organic milk as healthy as you think? It may not be.

Did you know that most cartons of organic milk have an average shelf life of 6 months, no refrigeration required? Gratitude for this amazing shelf life belongs to a process called UHT or ultra-high temperature pasteurization. While milk pasteurization has been around for over a hundred years, UHT has only been commercially used since the 1970s. The consequences of UHT on organic milk (or any milk) are questionable.


Pasteurization is a heating process, legally mandated in any milk being shipped across state lines, to kill harmful bacteria. States also have laws about whether or not pasteurization is required for in-state sales. Pasteurization was implemented during a time when thousands of people were dying from diseases carried by milk. While several different pasteurization methods exist, two are most common:  high temperature short time (HTST) or flash and UHT.

HTST Pasteurization Method

Milk is heated to 161 degrees F for atleast 15 seconds. It kills harmful bacteria but leaves good probiotic bacteria. HTST ensures that your milk is fresher and likely, more local than UHT milk as its expiration date is much shorter.[i]

UHT Pasteurization Method

This method heats milk to 280 degrees F for 2 seconds. UHT quickly kills 100 percent of bacteria in milk, even the good ones. Milk that has undergone UHT often tastes “burnt.” Furthermore, the UHT process requires more energy than the HTST method. Using UHT method, it is also possible to reheat any unsold/unopened milk and place them back on the store shelf.[ii]

Controversy exists whether or not UHT is actually a beneficial process to keeping our milk healthy and safe. Some research claims that the nutrients that are killed through the UHT process are not necessary for human health. However, what is known is that yogurt or keffir cannot be made from UHT milk, but it can be made from HTST milk, implying that certain healthy bacteria are only present in HTST processed milk.  It is also important to keep in mind that much of the organic milk is packaged in a non recyclable container. Milk companies will state that consumers are demanding milk with longer shelf life for convenience. It is up to us to demand otherwise.

Want to know which brands of organic milk don’t use UHT? Thanks to research by the Sweet Beet blog, we have a list of milk producers, but always make sure you read the labels first before purchase.

Brands that don’t use UHT
Natural by Nature

Brands that use both HTST and UHT (read the label): 
Horizon
Organic Valley
Whole Foods 365 Organic



[i] If you want to find out where your milk is from, find the code on your milk and use this website Where is my Milk from?

[ii] Controversy exists whether or not this is actually happening, but research has been conducted on reheating milk using the UHT method. See Cattaneo, S., Masotti, F., & Pellegrino, L. (2008). Effects of overprocessing on heat damage of UHT milk. Eur Food Res Technology, 226, 1099-1106.Sources

  1. CDC. (2013) Raw Milk Questions and Answers.
  2. The Sweet Beet
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. Food Renegade
  5. Locavore Del Mundo

 

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Amanda Marcott-Thottunkal is a freelance writer in Norman. In 2013, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Amanda is concerned about environmental policies and the effects legislation has on creating a cleaner, greener Oklahoma. She is constantly searching out ways to make her life more eco-friendly and wants to share green living tips with others. She lives with her husband and two cats.
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