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What Are the Pros and Cons of Homogenized Milk?

Homogenized milk has a longer shelf life but less flavor.
Homogenization makes the milk appear whiter.
Milk is often sold and bought by the gallon.
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  • Originally Written By: Liz Thomas
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2015
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    2003-2015
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The biggest pro of homogenized milk, at least from an industry standpoint, is usually the milk’s improved shelf life, though uniform color and consistency usually also rank high on the list. Some researchers also think that the homogenization process makes the milk easier to digest, though there is some controversy on this point. Some of the common cons include nutritional disadvantage — homogenized milk almost always has to be fortified to make up for vitamins and minerals lost in processing — and possible free radical build-up. In general, though, the process is considered safe, and is widely practiced by most commercial dairies around the world.

Understanding the Homogenization Process

The main goal of homogenization is to create milk that is uniformly smooth and consistent. In milk that is untreated, the fat almost always separates out as the liquid sits still, whether in a glass or in a larger container. People who want a smooth and creamy drink usually have to shake it to reincorporate everything. Homogenization makes that unnecessary.

The process is usually pretty simple, and typically requires the milk to be forced through tiny tubes and agitated to burst the fat globules into much smaller particles that will hang suspended in the liquid and won’t rise to the surface or otherwise separate. The resulting drink is very popular with consumers and manufacturers alike, though, like most things, it has both pros and cons.

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Improved Shelf Life

One of the biggest advantages is an improved shelf life. Fat cells that have a more uniform size stay suspended for longer times, which in many cases means the milk will stay fresh longer than it would otherwise. This advantage is often even more pronounced in milk that has also been pasteurized, a heat-based treatment that kills bacteria.

Ease of Digestion

Most experts say that homogenized milk is easier for people to digest than non-homogenized or raw varieties, though a lot of this does depend on the individual. It’s often easier for the body to process smaller concentrations of fat, and consistent textures are often gentler on the intestines. The nutrients are frequently absorbed more quickly and more efficiently as a result.

Color and Taste Concerns

Homogenized milk also sometimes looks whiter, which can be an advantage where sales are concerned. Consumers are often more eager to buy milk that looks pure white than milk that has a creamy color, though cream-based hues are usually more natural.

The process also creates a creamier feel and taste, as the fat content is consistent throughout every mouthful. A consistent fat content also prevents unpleasant odors from forming. When tasted side by side, though, milk that has been homogenized is often considered blander than milk hasn’t been, which can make this element either a pro or a con, depending on the person doing the tasting.

Worries About Nutrients and Free Radicals

The process of blending and breaking down milk fat frequently also breaks down some of the milk’s most essential vitamins, including vitamins A and D. Unless the milk is fortified — which most milk sold commercially is — people may not be getting all of the nutrition they otherwise would. When manufacturers fortify milk, they basically add liquefied versions of whatever nutrients are lacking.

Some experts have also raised concerns about what’s known as “free radicals,” which are molecules that float freely in certain foods and in the body, and can possibly cause problems with cell regeneration and growth. The beneficial fat in milk is broken up when milk is homogenized, and smaller molecules of cholesterol and fat might produce free radicals in the body. Free radicals are thought to be partially responsible for premature aging and can be damaging to the heart and other organs. At least where milk is concerned, though, the research backing these claims is not conclusive.

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Discuss this Article

anon313813
Post 9

I bought a bottle of non homogenized milk, drank a couple cups last night and ate some of the cream from it too, and today I woke up with awful diarrhea and I feel terrible! Is this normal?

anon260629
Post 7

I bought the non homogenized bottle of milk today. I haven't tried it yet, but I will most likely continue to purchase it. I believe the more you process something, the more toxic it is for your body.

Our bodies are filled with bacteria. So why is there so much hype about the bacteria? In fact we want more in yogurt, but want to take it out of our milk? Hmm.

I hope it tastes good, but even if it doesn't, I will still likely continue to buy. Besides, why strip out any of the few vitamins we get out of our food? Funny how people worry nowadays, but back in the 50s before this process started, people drank it and never thought twice about it. Just something to think about.

I find it odd that it is actually higher priced than the homogenized version. It's a shorter process to make, but a higher price. Guess it is because of the shorter shelf life.

The person who asked if you can by non homogenized but still pasteurized, the answer is yes you can. That is what I bought!

anon256609
Post 6

Non homogenized milk is so good and healthy! I love it!

EdRick
Post 5

Women who have pumped breastmilk for a baby know what non-homogenized milk looks like. The fat rises to the top; I guess it's lighter or less dense than the rest of the milk.

Experienced pumpers can even tell whether a particular sample is fatty hindmilk or leaner, thirst-quenching foremilk. The fat then has to be swirled or stirred back in before stirring.

I've never tried raw milk or non-homogenized. Is all non-homogenized milk raw (i.e., not pasteurized)?

orangey03
Post 4

I grew up out in the country with a bunch of brothers, and we were raised on non-homogenized milk. We expect a creamy, fattening flavor in our milk, and anything else would be a disappointment.

I remember ordering a glass of milk from a restaurant once. The only kind they had was homogenized and reduced fat. It did not taste like milk at all. It tasted more like water, and it was so white that it looked artificial!

Though it would go bad rather quickly, we don’t have to worry about that around our house. It will be long gone before that has a chance to happen.

cloudel
Post 3

I actually prefer the light taste of homogenized milk. My boyfriend drinks non-homogenized milk, and he made me taste it. It was just too rich for me, and I kept thinking about all the bacteria in it.

I don’t enjoy milk by itself. I will never sit down with a glass of pure milk. I only use it in other things, and this is probably why I like it light.

I pour just a splash of milk in my coffee to counter the bitter taste. I eat my cereal with milk, but I don’t drink the milk at the bottom of the bowl when I’m done. I only use it to moisten the grains.

I will drink low fat chocolate milk by itself, but only the homogenized kind. It has a good flavor without being too creamy.

OeKc05
Post 2

That’s sad that homogenization gets rid of so many good elements of milk. I never knew that it had to be fortified afterward.

All this time that I have been drinking it, I thought it was doing wonderful things for my body. Maybe the added vitamins were, but the natural ones probably were removed.

However, I’m glad that the process gets rid of dead bacteria and makes the milk stay fresh longer. It takes me about two weeks to go through a gallon of milk by myself, and non-homogenized milk would likely go bad before I could finish it.

kylee07drg
Post 1

I suppose I have been drinking homogenized milk for years without even knowing it. I always buy the low fat kind with the most distant expiration date without considering other factors.

I guess I just thought that the fat was distributed evenly in all milk. I didn’t know it was even possible to have some swallows with more fat than others.

I have gotten used to the bland taste of my milk, so I will continue to buy it. It’s hard to change tastes once you have become accustomed to a certain thing having a specific flavor. I would probably hate non-homogenized milk now.

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