Got Milk? Fun Facts About Milk

December 18, 2014
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Milk trivia!

The greatest amount of milk produced by a cow in one year?

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A:  59,298 pounds, by a Holstein cow named Robthom Sue Paddy

A few more

The milk mustache advertising campaign launched in 1995

Most cows give more milk when they listen to music

The natural yellow color of butter comes mainly from beta-carotene found in the grass the cows graze on

Milk costs more than gasoline in many areas of the U.S

Consumer spending on dairy products is 74.6 billion dollars annually or about 1.33% of personal income

The ice cream cone's invention is linked to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.  An ice cream vendor reportedly didn't have enough dishes to keep up with demand, so he teamed up with a waffle vendor who rolled his waffles into cones

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The past few days, I've been knee-deep researching and writing a paper for my latest class — the assignment: to document some of the research and conflicting opinions about the consumption of milk.

As I've come to discover, there aren't many topics in the realm of nutrition that are in such a constant state of froth.  I thought I'd take a short(ish) excerpt to share

We've all heard the terms before, but do you know what pasteurized and homogenized mean when it comes to milk?  (I didn't!). It turns out these dramatically different processes are critical, one to our taste buds, and the other to our safety.

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Is Drinking Non-Homogenized Milk Healthier Than Drinking Homogenized Milk?

Homogenization isn't meant to keep us safe, but rather to lend a uniform consistency and taste.

It was invented around the turn of the twentieth century and quickly became an industry standard.  People enjoyed the convenience of milk when they didn't want to have to shake to distribute the fat, every time they poured a bowl of cereal.  (Most of the milk sold in the U.S. is homogenized)

The process has advantages for large-scale dairy farms, allowing them to mix milk from different herds without issue.  By preventing the cream from rising to the top, homogenization also leads to longer shelf life.  Finally, homogenization makes it easier for dairies to filter out the fat and create two percent, one percent, and skim milk.

The process is purely mechanical, in that nothing is added to or taken away from the milk.  The fat globules are broken down, so they're able to stay integrated, rather than separating as cream.  Not only is the size of the fat globules changed, but the fat and protein molecules are rearranged

And thus begins the debate.  Some say it makes the milk more digestible (particularly for those with diseases that impair their ability to digest fats), others say it's too rapidly absorbed.  Some also say the smaller fat globules increase milk's ability to cause allergic reactions.

Personally?  I've yet to read anything that's swayed me one way or the other.

It seems if you're someone who relishes the idea of eating close to nature, un-homogenized milk is certainly less processed.  You may also enjoy the flavor, texture (or perhaps the nostalgia) or milk with cream floating at the top.  Un-homogenized milk is always full-fat whole milk, so if you have a taste for reduced-fat milk, you'll need to pour a bit of cream off the top before shaking.

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Is Raw Milk, Healthier Than Pasteurized Milk?

Pasteurization, on the other hand, is intended to make the milk we drink safer.  While government agencies claim it doesn't reduce milk's nutritional value, raw milk enthusiasts beg to differ.

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk up and then quickly cooling it back down, to eliminate certain bacteria.  There are several ways the process can be effective.  The least common is to heat the milk to 145 deg F for 30 minutes.  More widely used is heating the milk to 161.6 degrees F for 15 seconds, otherwise known as High-temperature Short-time pasteurization (HTS), or flash pasteurization

Then there's Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT), whereby milk is heated to 280 deg F for a minimum of two seconds.  This process results in a shelf life extending up to nine months.  Milk treated with pasteurization of HTST is labeled as pasteurized, while milk treated with UHT is labeled ultra-pasteurized.

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While pasteurization doesn't kill all micro-organisms in milk, it certainly is intended to kill some bacteria and make some enzymes inactive.  While raw milk activists claim otherwise, the FDA and CDC warn strongly against the dangers of unpasteurized milk.  In fact, in many states, selling it directly to consumers is illegal.

A few pros and cons I've run across

Un-pasteurized milk can carry bacteria such as salmonella, E.Coli, and Listeria.  While supporters cite this is rare, it doesn't negate the fact that one can become quite sick if exposed.  (It's the reason pasteurization was invented in the first place).  This is especially true for people with weakened immune systems

Raw milk advocates claim it tastes better, sweeter and richer

It doesn't contain additives; coming straight from the udder and then directly cooled and bottled.

While raw milk enthusiasts cite studies that claim raw milk can help prevent asthma, lactose intolerance, and allergies.  Those who are against its consumption point out these studies have been very small and inconclusive.

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While it's possible to have pasteurized milk that hasn't been homogenized and homogenized milk that hasn't been pasteurized, most milk found in U.S. groceries has undergone both processes.

If they happen together, milk is typically pasteurized first, and then homogenized, as the heat from pasteurization makes the fat molecules a bit easier to break down for homogenization

Got all that?  I think it's time for a cookie!

Have the Happiest of Thursdays!


ps:  Other fun facts about dairy: here, here, and here

pps:  Want to know more?  Some great resources on the topic

Real Raw Milk Facts

Real Milk

Raw Milk: Dangerous Beverage or Human Right?   (Chicago Tribune)

Raw Milk’s Appeal Grows Despite Health Risks   (Scientific American)

Food safety hazards associated with the consumption of raw milk.   (Pubmed)

Unpasteurized milk: A continued public health threat   (Pubmed)

FDA Food Facts: Raw Milk   (FDA)

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  • Reply Dustin April 10, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Great article. Yes, it is definitely time for a cookie.

  • Reply Dustin April 10, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Informative article. Yes, it is definitely time for a cookie.

  • Reply Ravi April 25, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    It’s good to know so many things about a product that is consumed on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing

  • Reply Sheri August 15, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    You know, I have been drinking milk all my life and recently stopped adding it to coffee because it was making me feel sick and I learned why it is bad to add it, but I never really thought about raw and pasteurized milk. I love reading posts where I can find pros and cons as well as learn something new! AND I love cookie monster. What a cute quote!

  • Reply Fiona February 12, 2018 at 2:25 am

    Wow. I will never look at milk the same way after reading this post. Sometimes you just take things for granted but now that I know how much work is done to give us the milk we consume every day, I will be wiser and more responsible in purchasing and consuming milk. Thankful to those cows!

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