Non-Homogenized Milk is Better Than Disneyworld

March 18, 2010

Mmmm. I just discovered non-homogenized milk – the kind with the thick layer of cream on top and more watery milk below. You have to shake it up before each serving, and the little flecks of buttery cream never quite disappear. Non-homogenized milk can look alien at first, with tiny chunks of floating cream fooling the mind into thinking the stuff’s gone rancid. But the taste is far superior to homogenized milk. Think milk with a hint of butter.

This is the old-fashioned kind, available to humans for 10,000 years until the 1930’s when homogenized milk became widespread. Homogenization of milk is accomplished by a series of filtration steps under high pressure that squeeze milk and its relatively large fat globules through tiny tubes, breaking the globules into microscopic pieces which are then prevented from coalescing by the casein already in the milk. This process makes milk look… homogenous, uniform in consistency and tasting evenly creamy.

There was great controversy over whether homogenized milk was responsible for the brisk uptick in coronary artery disease beginning in the 1940’s. Dr. Kurt Oster proposed a mechanism by which homogenization of milk might enable an enzyme called xanthine oxidase to initiate the formation of harmful plaque in arterial walls. In general, scientific study and peer review have consistently disproved his theories.

Low fat milk (with that tasty cream skimmed off the top) may be better for your health than whole milk.  But low fat diets have not been proven to extend lifespan.  Instead modifications in the types of fat eaten (trans, saturated, unsaturated, etc.) do seem prudent. Here is a good summary from UpToDate.com:


Having witnessed the more random dispersion of fat globules in non-homogenized milk, tasted the uneven notes of milk protein and cream, and had the pleasure of shaking a glass bottle instead of pouring a high-density polyethylene plastic gallon jug, I can now offer the following analogies:

Non-homogenized milk is to homogenized milk as camping in Yosemite is to Disneyworld.

Non-homogenized milk is to homogenized milk as U.S.A. is to China. (I realize this one is biased by petty notions of nationalism)

Non-homogenized milk is to homogenized milk as Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel is to Carlo Rossi Blush.

To each their own, with no value judgements necessarily implied.

You can probably find non homogenized milk with some effort at places like Whole Foods and small grocers who sell more natural, organic, and unprocessed foods. Think “hippy grocery store” or “local dairy farm not bulldozed over to build condominiums yet.” Although the saturated fat content of whole milk may render it less healthy than skim or 1%, other theories of nutrition hold that low fat foods produce a higher glycemic index that contributes to insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and oxidative damage to tissues. In terms of diet, weight loss, and optimal health, moderation seems prudent with everything except processed foods like Twinkies, etc.

I did not mean to delve so deeply into the complex health risks and benefits of non-homogenized milk, but rather intended to say that the stuff tastes really good, and that I’m excited by the work of shaking it and the little buttery variations in each swallow. The glass container is great since I’m trying to contribute less plastic to our landfills and the great oceanic garbage patches.

Sorry for this enticement if you are lactose intolerant!

{ 11 comments }

Celeste March 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I didn’t know there was old vine zinfandel; I’ve been enjoying some wonderful Spanish old vine tempranillos lately.

Have you ever tried full-fat yogurt? There are some with the cream on top, and they’re absolutely delectable to eat. Full-fat yogurt is to fat-free yogurt as a featherbed is to an Army cot. ;o)

drc – mmm… love that kind of yogurt, like greek style. I get Fage brand frequently, and Stonyfield :)

emmy March 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I don’t like milk, so I won’t comment on the taste. But remember if you plan to make hot cocoa with the non-homogenized milk, you must first skim the cream from the milk you intend to use. Otherwise you create something of a runny chocolate cheese.

bb March 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

This post sure got my interest especially since I am very lactose intolerant — so much so that I double over in pain. One day I was reading something about raw milk. It kind of grossed me out. One day I decided to give it a try. I purchased raw milk from Whole Foods and decided to try my experiment on a Friday night after work in order to give myself enough time to recover from a bout of painful lactose intolerance even though proponents of raw milk stated that lactose intolerant folks could drink raw milk. I gave it a try. Raw milk tastes much different than pasteurized and/or homogenized milk. Nothing happened after several hours. I drank some more and again, nothing happened.

Turns out that when the milk is pasteurized, it kills all the living bacteria (the good stuff) in the milk and they have to add stuff back in such as vitamin D. I now drink about a gallon and a half weekly of raw milk and I can say that I have never been healthier. My gut has a whole slew of good bacteria. I haven’t been ill in so long that I almost forget what it’s like to be sick except for recently. A friend got the flu that lasted for almost 2 weeks. He was out of it, throwing up, fever, not able to get out of bed, the whole nine yards. I ended up catching it from him. I woke up one morning feeling out of sorts. I also was sick to my stomach and had a low grade fever though nothing like his fever. In fact, while I stayed home, I did not stay in bed. I just kind of went about my day at home. Weird thing is that I was pretty much over it by that night, just kind of feeling out of sorts and weak. By the next day, it was as if I never was sick.

I am guessing that as a physician that you’re probably a bit germ conscious and raw milk probably raises the hair on the back of your neck. Humanity has been drinking raw milk for all of her history until recently when people got sick and were dying. No wonder — what they did to the cows in the early 1900′s — Yikes. The milk coming from those cows was blue because of the disgusting conditions they kept them in and the food they fed the cows.

With raw milk, I know the source which is not the case with pasteurized milk. Dairy farmers sell their milk to a central source where it’s all pooled together.

I won’t touch the pasteurised milk. I never ever want to feel that kind of stomach sick again in my life. Pasteurized milk goes sour and can’t be ingested. Raw milk doesn’t go bad, it just turns to kefir. The good bacteria eats up the bad bacteria but since pasteurizing milk kills off the good bacteria, it can only turn sour and become rancid. I have not had milk for over 20 years until 3 years ago when I started drinking raw milk.

I can’t believe I can drink milk again.

robin andrea March 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Ah, nice to see another fan of Ravenswood Old Vine Zin.

madhu March 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Full fat is the best…it satisfies so you can have less. We started w full fat milk due to the kids and now we continue ‘cos it is better. We don’t drink that much milk so I rationalize that it okay…a little of what you fancy does you good…

Pietr Hitzig March 21, 2010 at 1:03 am

Even better 60 years ago when you went with your grandfather holding your hand to a neighbor’s kitchen where she was pouring milk warm from the cow into the pasteurizer. “Here, Mr. Hall, take this quart home straight from the cow, No need to heat up the milk, we don’t have TB in my herd.’

And the milk, poured over hot porridge next morning without shaking. Oatmeal, a pinch of salt, brown sugar, clumps of cream. Delicious.

Kendra March 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

yummmmmm! I grew up on a dairy goat farm and have very fond memories of enjoying fresh (non-homogenized, and yes, sometimes fresh from the udder) goat’s milk every day! I still attribute my strong bones, and good health to fresh goat’s milk!

Aurora March 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm

As with most things we put in our bodies, the less we mess with milk the better it is for us. A friend of mine went through this horrible ordeal halfway through college when all the bad food he had been eating finally kicked his butt. All the bacterial flora in his gut died, he was unable to digest food, and he lost something like 40 lbs in two months. His doctors back in his hometown were horrified (as were all his friends!) and they made him eat tons and tons of live-culture yogurt and kefir, and drink raw milk. Seeing him get back his health in this way convinced us all, more than anything else could, of the benefits of food the way it was meant to be.

Hildy March 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

To recreate it, buy skim milk and full fat cream. Add your desired amount of cream to milk, shake.

Ed Pullen April 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Does anyone know if you can get pasturized but non-homogenized milk?

Susan April 28, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Yes, Ed, you can get pasteurized but non-homogenized milk. One that I really like is Farmer’s Creamery, which is available in several states. If it’s not available in yours, try googling “non-homogenized milk” and the name of your city.

If it’s non-homogenized, it’ll say so on the label.

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