Why to Avoid Ultra-Pasteurized and Ultra-Filtered Dairy

You’ve seen it on the shelf: milk with a 4-month expiration date that touts “Ultra-Filtered” or “Ultra-Pasteurized.” How can milk last that long? What does ultra-filtered mean? What is ultra-pasteurized dairy? Is it a healthy choice? Today we will take a look at the meaning of ‘ultra’ when applied to dairy processing and show you why to avoid it! Let’s start with pasteurization.

The 3 Types of Milk Pasteurization

Milk that’s pasteurized at low temperatures is very different from milk that’s pasteurized at high-temps. Differences include flavor, nutritional value, and shelf life. There are three methods of dairy pasteurization: batch (vat) pasteurized, high temp short time pasteurized (HTST), and ultra-pasteurized (UP) or ultra-high temp pasteurized.

Batch-pasteurization at Low Temps

A batch pasteurizer consists of a temperature-controlled, closed vat. The milk is pumped into the vat and heated slowly to 145°. It’s held at that temperature for a minimum of  30 minutes, cooled, and then pumped out of the vat. This method is rare today; it is used mainly by local and regional creameries. Low-temperature pasteurization destroys dangerous pathogens, but keeps the helpful bacteria our bodies need! Lower temperatures also preserve the fabulous, farm-fresh flavor of the milk. 

Kalona SuperNatural fluid milk, butter, and cream top yogurt are batch-pasteurized.

High Temp Short Time Pasteurization

To pasteurize larger quantities of milk in a more efficient manner, creameries began developing new processes as early as 1893. Today, high temp short time (HTST) is the most common form of pasteurization in the milk industry. In an HTST processor, the milk flows continuously through a series of thin metal plates that are heated by hot water. The milk is heated to a minimum of 161° F for at least 15 seconds, and then rapidly cooled. 

Kalona SuperNatural cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and sour cream are HTST-pasteurized.

Ultra-High Temp (UHT or UP) Pasteurization

Ultra-pasteurized (UP) milk is heated to a minimum of 280° F and held for 2 seconds, while ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk is heated to temperatures between 275° and 300° F. Both of these methods use commercially sterile equipment to produce a shelf-stable product that does not require refrigeration before opening. The goal of using UP or UHT pasteurization is to extend the shelf life and create a shelf-stable product.  

None of Kalona SuperNatural products are pasteurized using UHT or UP.

How Do I Tell the Difference?

It is required to be on the label! You will find the method of pasteurization in a variety of places on product packaging. See examples below! 

ultra-pasteurized milk vs batch pasteurized milk brands

History of Pasteurization

The practice of using heat to extend the life of food dates to the Middle Ages, when wine and beer were heated to prevent them from souring. When Louis Pasteur developed pasteurization in 1864, his goal was to lengthen the life of his favorite wine. Soon after, it was discovered that pasteurizing milk not only lengthened the shelf life but also destroyed deadly microorganisms that spread diseases. These discoveries led to milk pasteurization becoming a widespread practice in Europe, and it slowly caught on in the U.S.

Reformers pushed for pasteurization in the U.S. in response to “slop milk,” a growing public health crisis in the early 20th century. “Slop milk” was milk produced from urban dairies located next to whiskey distilleries. Many believed this was causing the spread of infectious diseases.  

In 1908, Chicago became the first city that required all milk sold within its limits be pasteurized. Then in 1924, the U.S. Public Health Service developed the Standard Milk Ordinance to assist states with voluntary pasteurization programs.  By the late 1940s, all milk sold in the U.S. was required by law to be pasteurized. Historians agree that pasteurizing milk led to a significant decline in the spread of infectious diseases and the infant mortality rate in urban areas.

Batch pasteurized milk, what is homogenization

Next Up: Ultra-Filtered Dairy

Ultra-filtration is one of the newest trends in dairy processing. This technique pushes milk through a semipermeable membrane filter, allowing specific components of milk to pass through based on their molecular weight. Why do brands choose to do this? Because it allows a dairy brand to engineer the final product. This is how ultra-filtered dairy brands can achieve higher protein milk (milk proteins have heavier molecular weight) with less sugar (lactose has lower molecular weight). Why avoid ultra-filtered milk? It’s overly-processed. By machine-selecting which components make the cut, the natural balance of the milk is lost.   

Don’t be fooled by the word “Ultra” When it Comes to Dairy

“Ultra” may sound like a good thing, but beware! When it comes to dairy products, the term “ultra” is an identifier or overly-processed dairy. The purpose of UP or UHT pasteurization is to extend the shelf life of products and make them shelf-stable. With UP or UHT pasteurized dairy, you lose the farm fresh flavor and the good bacteria. And the purpose of ultra-filtration is to create “engineered milk.” Similar to ultra-pasteurized dairy, this unnecessary process disrupts the natural balance of the milk.   

Choose better dairy!

At Kalona SuperNatural, we strive to provide you and your family with the best possible products in the most natural state possible. That’s exactly why we pasteurize our products at low temps, don’t homogenize the cream, and are certified organic! 

Watch the video below to learn more about our brand!

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