Milk processing: When did my supermarket milk last see a cow?
Ever wondered what happens to your supermarket milk between the cow and your cereal bowl? Here’s an average month in the life of a litre of shop-bought milk:
Cows are milked by the farmer.
Milk is stored on the farm, for anything up to two days in a refrigerated tank.
Collected by tanker and taken to the processing plant, up to 150 miles away.
Stored at the plant, for anything up to four days.
Milk is forced through hot plates to heat it rapidly to a temperature of 75 degrees C. It is then forced through ice cold plates to cool it rapidly to 4 degrees C. This can kill off some harmful bacteria but also kills most of the good bacteria and lactase enzymes, making it indigestible to some people (aka lactose intolerance).
All of the butterfat (cream) is removed and then a certain percentage is put back, to make either “whole milk”, “semi-skimmed” or “skimmed”. Any leftover cream (and there’s plenty!) Is used to make other products. You’re being swindled out of good cream!
Literally meaning ‘to make it homogenous’ or all exactly the same. Milk is shaken hard, or blasted against a hard surface, so that all the delicate fat globules are smashed into tiny pieces until they are unable to rise to the top. This is why you never get that lovely line of cream on top of your milk anymore.
Milk is packed in plastic cartons.
Milk is trucked all over the country, to shops and wholesalers. It’s crazy to think that the milk from our farm could travel hundreds of miles before ending up back in our local shops, a lot older and more battered than when it left us!
We all know how long that is. Say another week. So by the time the milk ends up in your fridge, it could be anything up to two weeks old… Mmmmm, bon appetit!