You probably know that, for the most part, milk is pasteurized. But what exactly does that mean? Pasteurization is a process that makes your milk safer for you and your family, and preserves that creamy, tasty goodness.
Pasteurized milk is milk that has been heated to a high temperature and then usually cooled very quickly. This procedure extends milk’s shelf life from a few days to several weeks or even months, depending on the type of pasteurization. High-temperature, short-time (HTST) pasteurized milk usually lasts two to three weeks when refrigerated. But ultra-pasteurized milk can last up to nine months, depending on the packaging and handling conditions.
For HTST, the milk is heated to 161ºF for 15-20 seconds, and for ultra-heat treatment (UHT), it’s brought to 275ºF for at least one second. These high temperatures get rid of the pathogens in milk that could make you sick, but pasteurization doesn’t kill all the micro-organisms (that’s what sterilization does—along with negatively affecting the taste).
Using heat, as a means of preservation is a tool that’s been known for centuries, but modern pasteurization, with the intense and immediate cooling, came about in the late 1800s thanks to French scientist Louis Pasteur (which also explains that hard-to-say name). The idea of germs had been floating around for a while, but Pasteur developed it and conducted experiments that showed him that the growth of micro-organisms was to blame for food going bad and making people sick.
Thanks to Monsieur Pasteur, the process of pasteurization eliminates 90% of the harmful bacteria in milk, and it’s the only process that can do that. It helps prevent diseases like tuberculosis, diphtheria and scarlet fever, as well as killing those nasty bugs like Salmonella.
Even so, there are many people who wouldn’t give up their raw milk for anything. While pasteurization kills the bad micro-organisms, it also kills the ones that are beneficial. Raw milk has all 8 essential amino acids, and about 80% of milk’s proteins are heat-stable, easy-to-digest caseins. It also has proteins and enzymes that help you absorb essential minerals and can protect against other dangerous bacteria.
Whether raw or pasteurized is your cup of tea (er… milk), cow’s milk is full of nutrients and protection against disease. So go ahead and knock back a cup of the white stuff!