This Is Why Organic Milk Lasts So Much Longer Than Regular Milk

It's all about the pasteurization.

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Let us set the record straight: milk does not inherently last longer just because it's organic. Organic milk, at its simplest definition, is just milk that comes from a cow that has not been treated with antibiotics and is produced under certain conditions related to sustainability and use of pesticides. Most of it does, however, last substantially longer than conventional milk -- roughly 40 to 60 days unopened, compared with 15 to 17 days. The reason for that is the way it's processed.

Organic milk usually undergoes ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing, which means it's heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 seconds. In contrast, traditional milk is generally processed using a standard preservation process, heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds. Standard pasteurization will kill enough bacteria so that you don't get sick, but UHT kills everything. Most organic milk is treated this way because it usually has to be warehoused and travel longer distances, so it needs a longer shelf life.

The reason not all milk is UHT treated is because the process changes the flavor of milk. The high heat caramelizes some of the natural sugars found in milk, giving it a sweet flavor. Some folks find this objectionable, and others -- such as Europeans, who use this process a lot -- don't seem to mind at all.

CLARIFICATION: Language has been amended to reference the breadth of regulations that apply to milk labeled "organic" in the U.S. and to make clear that not all organic milk is UHT processed.

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