You drink that white stuff…they call it “milk”?

The other day we were at the library dropping books off and the girls went to look through for some new ones. I like browsing the magazine section, as we dont buy those anymore (frugal decision that saves us a bunch). I picked up Choice magazine, which is a consumer information type of a publication, making tests and reviewing products and rating them. There was an article on milk. I dont drink the stuff, but it looked interesting so I read it.

Now, one would (quite reasonably, I would say) assume that cows somewhere get pumped, a big truck takes the milk to the factory, where its heated as required and then packaged into whatevers and delivered to a shop near you, where you buy it and drink its “wholesome goodness”. Its not just a blind assumption, mind you. Recently we visited the local processing factory and we were given a similar explanation. There was even a cutesy video of a happy cow and the milk getting to them and then they pasteurize it and send it off to us, the customers.

It turns out, this is all bullshit, excuse the language, but its fitting.

Milk gets to the factory and basically gets processed into cream and the rest. Most of the cream goes to further work- butter, cream and so on. The “rest” gets rebuilt to resemble milk, but only enough to pass the government regulations. The government says how much fat it needs to have to be considered ‘full cream’ and skim and the rest. So the factory puts just enough fat back in to satisfy those guidelines. Milk from our cows is about 4% fat (jersey cows are much higher). The minimum it needs to be to be full cream is 3.2%,  they add back to about 3.4% and the rest is kept. It makes sense, really, the cream is the expensive wonderful part, why give us more than they have to.

So now they have enough fat in the “rest”, they try to extend it even further. They grab a left over watery sugary by product from cheese making – permeate – and they mix that in as well. That surely extends the product even more. Why throw the stuff to the pigs, as used to be the norm, just give it to the consumers, they at least pay for it. Apparently some milks have around 10% of the stuff.

Now they have built up the mixture to something that can be called milk officially. Now it needs to be heated up to kill potential bugs. Since they also homogenize it – or break up the fat molecules into smaller ones to make the cream not rise to the top and look nice and save us the shaking part – a process that can cause issues with the enzymes naturally in the milk, the heating up is done very soon after, to kill the buggers. Enzymes are actually wonderful little things, but oh, well.

Natural? Milk?

If you want minimally processed milk, find an organic unhomogenized one from a small local producer (raw is probably best, but good luck with that one).


Further reading:
The Choice Article  
Article about farmers' objection to use of permeate
Homogenization explained