Milk Label Lingo, Decoded

milk label lingo
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine.

Reading the nutrition label on a carton of milk can be confusing, if not frightening. We've broken it all down for you so you can drink with confidence!

RAW: Untreated, unheated, straight from the cow. The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers not to drink it because it can carry bacteria that make people sick, although some claim raw milk has health benefits. While some states forbid raw-milk sales, others allow it—often directly from the farm.

PASTEURIZED: Heated to specific temperatures to destroy microorganisms that cause illness and shorten shelf life. Most milk sold in the U.S. has been pasteurized.

ULTRA-PASTEURIZED: Pasteurized briefly at a high temperature (typically two seconds at 280°F) to keep it fresh longer in the fridge and supply chain. In the U.S., this process is most often used on organic milk, cream, and eggnog.

UHT: Ultra-high temperature; so called shelf-stable or aseptic. Pasteurized longer at a high temperature (typically 275°F to 302°F for four to 15 seconds), it is packaged in sterilized, hermetically sealed containers that can be stored at room temperature. UHT milk keeps for three to six months on the shelf; once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within a week.

HOMOGENIZED: Blended—typically blasted through fine mesh—to distribute milk fat evenly and keep it from separating or clumping later.

NONHOMOGENIZED: Unblended, which allows cream to float on top; also sometimes called "creamline" milk.

RBHG-FREE, RBST-FREE, NO ARTIFICIAL GROWTH HORMONES: From cows that have not been injected with the synthetic hormones used by some farms to increase milk production.

ORGANIC: Produced on farms that adhere to strict USDA organic requirements. These include allowing cows to graze, feeding them certified organic feed, and not giving them hormones to stimulate milk production.

LACTOSE-FREE, LACTOSE-REDUCED: Treated to remove or reduce lactose, a sugar that occurs naturally in milk and which some people have trouble digesting. Oddly enough, this results in sweeter-tasting milk. It can be substituted for regular dairy milk.

FORTIFIED: Includes added ingredients, typically vitamins A and D, but also sometimes protein and calcium. The fat in whole milk is naturally high in vitamin A, so milk that's skimmed of fat is often fortified with additional vitamin A. Vitamin D is often added to help your body absorb calcium.

SKIM DELUXE, SKIM SUPREME: Nonfat milk with fiber added to create the mouthfeel of 2% milk. —OneSmartCookie


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