In most areas of the Philippines, as well as many other places in Asia and Europe, UHT milk is the only milk you can buy from the stores. UHT stands for “ultra-high temperature processing” or “ultra-heat treatment”, or “ultra-pasteurization”, whichever you prefer. It is not the same as pasteurized milk, regardless of what’s shown on the label.
Someone invented UHT milk in the 1960s. It became generally available in the 1970s, and I consumed my first carton of UHT milk in 1983, while I was a United States Marine aboard a United States Navy ship.
People of modernized countries don’t realize how bad they really have it. Having lived in the United States for most of my life, but with the opportunity to live in other countries, I can understand why no one seems to notice.
Pasteurized milk has a very limited shelf life, requiring refrigeration, and usually only for a few days. UHT milk, however, has a shelf life of six to nine months at room temperature. Once opened and refrigerated, that shelf life drops to a few days, but then it’s already being consumed. Pasteurized milk will go bad in the refrigerator in a much shorter time, even if unopened. Consumers in the United States tend to throw out more spoiled milk than consumers from developing nations, where distribution of pasteurized milk isn’t practical.
The Taste of Milk
When you live in places like the United States, you get used to the way pasteurized milk tastes. It’s milk from cattle. Goat milk tastes different, as does the milk from other animals. UHT milk tastes slightly different from pasteurized milk, but it’s still milk from cattle. It doesn’t take more than a couple of days to get used to the difference in taste. I still like to drink it cold even if it’s not necessary, so I always keep a few liters in the refrigerator when I’m in the Philippines.
I travel back and forth to the United States, and I drink pasteurized milk when I’m there. When I’m in the Philippines, I drink UHT milk. I can barely taste the difference.
Pasteurization vs. UHT
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to 72 degrees Celsius (161.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 15 seconds. UHT is the process of heating milk to a temperature exceeding 135 degrees Celsius (275 degrees Fahrenheit) for one or two seconds.
Pasteurization takes place before filling the milk into containers to kill most of the microorganisms that cause spoilage. The original taste is normally maintained. Although the UHT process changes the taste slightly, it kills all the spores in milk.
Drinking UHT Milk Without Knowing It
Rumor has it that certain franchises make their deserts with UHT milk. It’s also rumored that UHT milk is the kind of milk served on planes and trains. I can’t confirm either rumor, but if a milk product has a label, the type of milk you’re drinking when you inspect the label could surprise you.
There’s nothing wrong with drinking UHT milk. In my opinion, it’s safer to store and drink due to its longer shelf life. The stores in the Philippines import UHT milk from Australia and New Zealand. I prefer Cowhead, imported from Australia and distributed by Ben Foods in Singapore.
Some stores in Hawaii carry milk labeled “ultra-pasteurized” and “organic”. It’s stored in the refrigerated section just like pasteurized milk, but it’s UHT milk (read the entire label). In an attempt to convince shoppers that it’s the same, only better, the distributors charge more for it. Up to twice as much.
Negative Reactions to UHT Milk
I’ve read a lot of negative articles about UHT milk over the years. As usual, the negativity is about how the milk changes when it’s heated. Some people say it’s no good for cooking or baking. Well, when you cook, you’re heating the milk beyond the boiling point anyway.
It’s almost as bad as how people say microwaved food isn’t good for you because it changes the molecular structure of the food. Again, when you do any kind of cooking, you’re changing the molecular structure. If you want to have the true taste of milk and completely unchanged food, you need to drink the milk straight from the cow (like farm families do) and eat all of your plant and animal products raw. Good luck with that.
Image by Lazada