It can come from cows, goats, buffalo, horses, even humans (though you won’t find that one in the grocery store). The U.S. is the third largest consumer of milk worldwide, behind only India and the EU. While consumption has been declining steadily since the 1970s, milk still makes up a large portion of the American diet. Most of it is produced in California and Wisconsin, and I’m guessing that’s not a surprise to you.
Milk is regulated by the FDA and defined by federal regulations as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows. Regulations also define a standard of identity, which establishes a common name, mandatory ingredients, optional ingredients, fortification levels, etc. Most food products have one.
Whole milk, for example, must contain at least 8.25% milk solids and 3.25% milkfat. Vitamins A and D are an optional addition, however the quantity of additions are specifically defined at 2000 and 400 International Units. The cream and skim can be mechanically separated, usually with a centrifuge, and recombined to produce a specific fat content.
Milk is graded, however any fluid milk you see at the store should be Grade A. Grade B is used in the production of cheese, butter, and other products. Homogenization, which distributes fat globules uniformly, is optional. Without it, cream separates from the rest of the fluid and rises to the top.
Pasteurization or ultra-pasteurization, which kills harmful bacteria, is mandatory according to federal regulations. This is becoming more of a debatable topic, however, as raw milk is gaining popularity. Raw milk is not pasteurized or homogenized. Proponents claim that these processes destroy beneficial bacteria and nutrients in dairy products along with harmful ones and prefer an untreated product. A number of states have legalized the sale of raw milk, however it is not endorsed at the federal level and these products cannot be sold across state lines.
Hope you enjoyed, and be on the lookout for more on raw milk, milk pricing, and other dairy products. Stay tuned for the next post!