Pasteurized VS Ultra-Pasteurized

Buying milk

Tiffany says: Please explain the ultra-pasteurized thing because I’m really ignorant about why that’s a bad thing. I’m asking because we buy the organic milk, but I think it’s ultra-pasteurized, so maybe I should be buying something different?

Me: Good question!  I talked about this long ago when I first discovered the information, but I fear that I all too often just refer to it without explaining it.

Pasteurization, as you probably know, slows microbial growth in food and makes milk last longer. Pasteurization was created at a time in history (early 1900s) when family farms were becoming less common and industrial methods were being implemented to bring milk to more people at further distances.  Milk from various farms was being combined and shipped great distances, and at that time, cleanliness and hygiene were not well observed, so the milk easily became contaminated.

There were several different reactions at the time.  Some went to great lengths to make raw milk safe and clean, and it was actually quite successful. At the same time, others turned to the pasteurization process in an attempt to reduce harmful bacterias that may be present in raw milk.

For a while, both methods co-existed peacefully, but eventually legislation was put in place requiring milk sold in retail establishments to be pasteurized — one of the biggest travesties of the 20th century, in my humble opinion.

Today raw milk is legal in some states, but not all. Here in Pennsylvania, it can be purchased directly from farms or from some small health food stores.  But back to pasteurization…

With conventional (storebought) milk, there are basically two methods of pasteurization: HTST and UHT.

HTST stands for High Temperature, Short Time. On the label, it will usually say Pasteurized. This process brings milk to no more than 165° F and holds it there for only 15-20 seconds. Shelf life of HTST milk is 2-3 weeks.

UHT stands for Ultra-High Temperature.  It is also called Ultra-Pasteurized. This process heats milk to 280° F for a minimum of one second.  The purpose is to make it last longer — it has shelf life of 2-3 MONTHS — but by doing so it basically kills off most of the nutritional value that existed in the fresh milk and makes it even harder to digest.

The reason many organic brands choose to use the Ultra Pasteurized method is because it lasts longer on the shelf. In fact, UHT milk isn’t even required to be refrigerated!!! (Did you ever notice that those little organic chocolate milk boxes aren’t refrigerated??)

I stay far, far away from ultra-pasteurized dairy products.  I won’t even buy half-and-half for my coffee if it’s ultra-pasteurized.  Ick.

There is one other kind of pasteurization, usually employed only by small farms that sell their milk locally.

Low-heat Pasteurization heats the milk to 145° and holds it there for 30 minutes, then it is quickly cooled to prepare for bottling. If you have access to this type of milk, it is far superior to the other methods of pasteurization.

For a time, our family drank raw milk (totally unpasteurized). We loved it, and it agreed with my temperamental tummy, but we got sick off it once and never went back to it.

I can only drink pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk when I accompany it with a Lactaid tablet. If I drink any form of pasteurized milk without Lactaid, I get horrible stomach aches that last hours. While I’m pretty much convinced that raw milk is superior, I don’t think it was intended for mass production. So now we drink low-heat pasteurized milk from a local dairy.

If you must buy your milk at the grocery store, go for the regular pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized.

And if you have access to a local farm that sells their own milk and uses the low heat pasteurization process, even better.

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33 Responses

    1. When they take the fat out of dairy, they have to use additives – including powdered milk – to preserve the original body and texture. Plus, your body needs the fat in whole milk to be able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. I only drink whole milk! 🙂

      1. OMG!!! I was just told at the super market the pasteurized milk is dead and that we shouldn’t buy it. My husband stopped buying it and started to buy ultra Pasteurized… urgh! thanks for the info.

      2. Regarding your last paragraph info about Low-heat Pasteurization, were you meaning to say heating to 145 degrees for 30 seconds (instead of 30 MINUTES as stated)? I was just thinking this may have been a typo. Thank you for that article.

  1. We have been drinking raw milk since last fall. I’m not saying for sure that they are related, but we haven’t had raw milk in the house for the past three weeks and since then everyone in my house has a cold. None of us have been sick all winter other than right now. Also, raw milk tastes so much better if you can get it.
    (My hubby forgot to place the last order, and we’re just waiting for the next drop off. That’s why we haven’t had any lately.)

    1. We have been quite well this year. We still have had a few things, but most are mild and short-lived. I haven’t been sick in a year, and I used to catch EVERYTHING. *knocks on wood*

  2. How do you know what kind of pasteurization? I usually buy my milk at Publix, and it just says “pasteurized” on it; it does not say what type of method was used.

  3. Ok, you’re brilliant! You just explained that in the perfect way that made sense & may have just answered one of my questions about my 18mo. I wasn’t paying attention to the pasteurization of the milk but was noticing that different types were making her sick … she couldn’t digest some at all. I was trying to look at lacto-free, almond, soy, etc. but he stomach kept contradicting itself. OR maybe the pasteurization did? Very interesting … I’m off to compare! Thanks Dr. Musings of a Housewife:)

  4. We’re raw milk here, too…for our “pets” of course!

    When I first heard that UHT milk didn’t have to be refrigerated I felt sick. I felt like it was a scam to have all those big refrigerators at the grocery store–they are tricking us!! Then I realized I’d seen it before–all those little organic chocolate milk boxes aren’t refrigerated. Anywhoo.

    The only organic whole milk in a gallon jug that is just pasteurized around here is from Publix. I’ve NEVER been able to find it anywhere else. Weird.

    Good info, Jo-Lynne!

  5. I’m still looking for a local dairy that’s close enough for me. Closest one is about 1.5 hrs 🙁 In the meantime, I buy the regular store milk and unsweetened almond milk for us. (I don’t drink cow’s milk because it makes me phlegmy, but I do get plenty of other dairy products!)

    Thanks for this useful information!!

  6. I dated a German girl 20 years ago. When we went to Germany to visit her parents for Christmas one year, I noticed that they kept their milk in the cupboard, and it had UHT written on the side. It tasted awful.

    I just assumed it was because space is an issue for most Europeans, and most had very small refrigerators. They were just beginning to adopt our consumerist practice of buying large quantities of food all at once, in the early 90s. They usually bought everything fresh for that day, instead. Frozen foods were confined to a small cooler in the back of most grocery stores, so they didn’t have a need for large refrigerators, and consequently needed a specially treated milk that they could store at room temperature. I considered it a trade-off, like combat rations are a trade-off of palatability for portability. They sacrificed a little flavor and healthful-benefits for the ability to store their milk on a shelf in the cupboard.

    So, flash-forward 20 years, and I just, today, noticed that almost all of the milk products in my grocery store’s coolers are now ultra-pasteurized. From the way I’ve come to understand UHT, it was kind of unsettling to realize this. I know it’s not a space issue, our refrigerators have not become smaller, we don’t need to store our milk in cupboards. So it seems as though this decision was made by the grocers or the distributors for economic reasons.

    Luckily for me, the store brand had a choice between HTST and UHT half & half. I picked the HTST version. I’ve always felt that any processing on foods is bad. I certainly don’t want MORE processing done to my food, especially if the only real benefits seem to be for the people selling it.

    1. How interesting! And yes, I totally agree.

      ” I certainly don’t want MORE processing done to my food, especially if the only real benefits seem to be for the people selling it.”

      That sums it up quite nicely!

  7. Hey there Jo Lynne!

    First, I want to thank you for unashamedly admitting that you are a fellow Christ-follower!! There are too few “souled-out” believers in America today 🙁

    Second, on to the subject at hand…milk. I want to thank you again for your knowledge on milk products. I wanted to know if you’ve ever looked up the differences between cow milk and goat milk, and their affects on the human body?

    We’ve had goats for a few years now, and it wasn’t till about 2 months ago that I found out how good goat milk was for you, and how bad cow milk was….comparatively speaking. I was just wanting your input on the two.

    Thanks again and God bless!

    In His Grip,


    1. Hi Dave, yes, as I understand it, goat milk is very easy to digest. I have never tried it, personally, but I am curious how my stomach would handle it. Right now I don’t drink milk at all because it upsets my stomach. For a while, I drank raw cow’s milk, which agreed with my tummy, but our family was sickened by it, which scared us away. Now my kids drink a low-temp pasteurized milk from a local dairy, and I just avoid milk altogether. There is goat milk at my farmer’s market. I should try it.

  8. Dave and Jo the reason why goats milk is easy to digest as they at emit required to pasteurise the milk and still has that good old lactase which eats lactose which is killed of during pasteurisation.

    I have been drinking raw milk for 10 weeks now directly from a farm in Australia and the most surprising thing is I have had chronic asthma for 30 years where I use medication frequently and for the first time in my life it is gone I no longer need to control my breathing and worked out with no effects.

    On a side note I read research they found recently that the chemical lactase appeared in humans very quickly. (Ie the body creates lactase without needing it, that why people can drink pasteurised milk with no ill effect it they can)

    Now in the world we are up to the 3 generation only have pasteurised milk and it seems many people are loosing the ability to produce lactase l, if you think about it how many more people today are having children that are lactose intolerant.

  9. You have a few errors in your post…First, ‘pasteurization’ is a term for heating and destroying microorganisms in milk, it is a general term that covers the 5 techniques. ultrapasteurized and ultrahigh-temperature are 2 different techniques. Ultrapasterization heats milk to 280 F for 2+ seconds. UHT heats milk to 280 – 302 F for 2-6 seconds.

    I know these seem like minor differences but it makes a huge difference in the shelf life of the product. Hope that helps, I actually have an exam on this info tomorrow so this will definitely help me remember the differences… 🙂


  10. Many do not realize that Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization while searching for a way to keep beer from spoiling. The fact that the process also extended the shelf life of milk was a side note of his research.

  11. You are presenting an inaccurate opinion as fact regarding ultrapasteurized milk. Ultrapasteurization does change the taste of milk slightly, and some, not most, people can detect the difference (it’s a little sweeter). Its not unpleasant and one’s taste for it quickly adjusts. The nutritional changes are minor. The calories are the same. Calcium is the same. Some vitamins are reduced by a minor amount. Thiamin is reduced by a little less than 7%. Vitamin B 12 and vitamin C are reduced by 10%. Some protein chains are broken, which doesn’t change the nutritional value but makes it slightly easier to digest (proteins are broken down by the digestive process), and destroys organisms that can make you very, very sick. For example: until the dairy and cattle industries are willing to eliminate Johnes disease from their herds, the causative organism, mycobacillus avis paratuberculosis (commonly referred to as MAP), is found in 5% to 10% of the raw milk products, ordinary pasteurized (HTST) milk products, and meat that you buy. For the 10% of us who have inherited an immune system that reacts over aggressively to that organism, it causes Crohnes disease. That organism is only destroyed by ultrapasteurization and cooking your meat (ugh) well-done.

  12. Lots of good info there. My wife and I are expecting our first baby sob naturally her diet has become a big topic and she brought up the idea of buying ultra pasteurized milk. This helped me inform her without coming across as a pain.

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