Milk: Raw, Pasteurized or Ultra-Pasteurized?

Posted on Jan 7, 2011 by 3 Comments
Milk: Raw, Pasteurized or Ultra-Pasteurized?

You know those little milk containers that you can just throw in your bag and not have to worry about refrigerating? Well, I stopped to wonder the other day – how do they do that?

Well, the answer is: ultra pasteurized milk. Ahh, then I stepped right into the raging debate over raw, pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk. Do you know of what I speak? Talk about passionate opinions!

Here’s the break down:

Raw: Think Bessie and a milk maid, pumping and squirting milk from the cow into your glass. It is supposedly that fresh. So, whatever the cow ate, you drink. Many people fervently suggest that this is the BEST way to drink milk because all bacteria (good and bad) are left alone and you consume them. Now, the human body can handle some bacteria just fine. It needs good bacteria, in fact, to function properly.

But, talk to the residents of the 1800s and you’ll quickly learn why Louis Pasteur did what he did and invented pasteurization. Many people got seriously sick and even died because milk was not at all a stable staple (though to be fair, he was more concerned with beer and wine, but still).

Pasteurization: Milk from the cow is put into a series of tubes (yes, really, tubes!) and heated to a certain temperature to kill all the bad bacteria. Basically, it is heated just below the boiling point. Supposedly all the good bacteria survives. Even the FDA says that there is no appreciable difference in nutritional value between raw and pasteurized milk. Many don’t agree.

Ultra-pasteurization: If heat is good, then more heat must be better, or so the theory goes. Ultra-pasteurization is just that, heating the milk to an even higher point. This effectively increases the shelf life and stability of milk, like up to 60 days! OMG! However, it also destroys the taste, some argue.

So that’s the skinny. Now, the debate centers on this: do we, as a population, drink milk for its nutritional value?

Wait, what? Of course we do, you might be thinking. But seriously, just think about it. That’s what it all boils down to, so to speak. What are you and your children getting out of their milk?

Here’s a wrench: humans are the only beings that drink the milk of another species. Are we supposed to be drinking it in the first place? Now, I would no longer drink human milk than drink my own urine, let’s get that straight. So, I’m clearly not thinking about hitting my lactating sister up for squirt from her boobie for my coffee. It’s just that learning about pasteurization opens up so many doors that it has made me evaluate why I drink milk.

My answer: taste and some nutrients. How about you?

So, because I’m a middle of the road kinda gal, I’ll stick with pasteurized milk and stay away from both raw and ultra-pasteurized. I like skim milk with both cereal and cookies. I’m used to its watery taste. That said, I do like whole milk for coffee.

And, if you are pregnant and reading this, please know that many doctors do NOT recommend raw milk for you or your baby! I’m no expert, but I’ve read in many places that food borne illness from milk is harmful or fatal for a fetus, so be careful.

photo credit: stevoarnold

Posted in: Food, Health

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  • Hutch

    Kate–love the cow! Got an extra pic? Hutch

  • Julie C.

    I kind of agree. As the only beings that drink another mammal’s milk (also goat milk, etc.) it is a bit weird, isn’t it?

    Our babies should drink their human mothers’ milk until the time they are weaned – preferably about a year. After that, what are we doing supplimenting our diets with a nutrient meant to feed a 250 pound baby calf?

    I eat and drink some dairy myself, so I’m not an activist, but I have scaled it down considerably over the years as I’ve paid more attention to vegetarians and experts speak, as well as noticed my own growing intolerance to dairy products. I think milk is great for growing children, but just like kittens and puppies, the time comes when they should give it up.

  • Henny Ort

    When discussions such as these happen, I kind of chill out. Is milk good for us? weird, certainly! delicious? in coffee and ice cream- Yes! But is it good?
    Is coffee good for us? some say yes, some say no, some say a little bit. Is meat good for us? Is chocolate? (oh, yes.) If you think about it, eating the meat of a carcass is gross. But who thinks it when a good piece of steak sizzles on your plate? Who thinks where milk comes from, or eggs? (my friend made a sunny side up with an egg from a pigeon. I though it was beyond gross, but now i think, what’s it worse than chicken eggs?)
    so i say, they ate it all the generations for as long as history is recorded, lets not stop now. Lets enjoy our ice cream and coffee and smoothies. Yum.