Most of us grew up with a glass of cold milk at dinnertime. It was a simple indulgence that was a symbol of childhood and a well-rounded healthy meal. But if you had to choose a glass of milk today, would you know what to choose? The dairy aisle today offers a lot of choices – from small-batch local farms to grass-fed and even goat’s milk. There is a lot on offer, but it can seem daunting. So, here’s a cheat sheet to help you find fresh milk that reminds you of childhood every time you visit the dairy aisle.

Non-Homogenized (Cream-on-Top) vs. Homogenized
Homogenized milk is exactly what it sounds like – it’s uniform and consistent. Homogenization is the process of breaking down the fat molecules in milk so that they remain integrated. It is a purely physical process meaning that nothing is added to the milk. When milk is non-homogenized it is left undisturbed which allows the cream (or fat) to separate and rise to the top. It’s a natural separation process and you will often hear it referred to as “cream-on-top”. This cream layer can be stirred or gently shaken back into the milk to reintegrate.

Hormones and Antibiotics
The reality for many dairy cows in today’s industry isn’t exactly pretty. The unnatural life that has been forced upon these animals has lead to a need for antibiotics and growth hormones. It’s not what the cows want and it’s certainly not what you should drink. So we keep it simple for you – every dairy product in our store is free of antibiotics and added growth hormones. It’s an important step for your health and one less thing to worry about.

Grass-Fed Milk
Many dairy cows eat grass but also rely on a diet that is supplemented with grains, like corn or soybeans. But 100% grass-fed cows are just that, and a milk carton that reads 100% grass-fed ensures you are consuming milk from cows who feast exclusively on luscious green grass. You can often taste the difference in 100% grass-fed milk, and some studies have shown that it contains higher levels of antioxidants and heart-healthy fats. You are what you eat after all, and cows are meant to eat grass.

Local Milk
The love local movement has not forgotten about dairy – and for good reason. Consuming a by-product of your local environment is important, especially when looking for grass-fed milk. We have lots of options in our dairy aisle if you’re looking for local milk, including Homestead Creamery in all 37 Earth Fare stores.

Pasteurized vs. Ultra-Pasteurized
Pasteurized milk is heated to a required minimum temperature of 161°F for 15 seconds to eliminate pathogenic microorganisms. By comparison, ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 280°F for just 2 seconds and is immediately and rapidly re-chilled. The result is milk that is 99.9% free of microorganisms, with a shelf-life that is up to 3X longer than pasteurized milk. While ultra-pasteurized milk brings many advantages, perceptions on the benefits of pasteurized milk have recently changed. In fact, many people prefer pasteurized milk because it retains certain nutrients that are not available in ultra-pasteurized milk due to the extreme heating process.

Adding Vitamins to Milk
The law actually requires that milk companies add vitamins A and D to reduced fat milks. Vitamin A is fat soluble, so it is lost when the fat is reduced in fluid milk. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is present is milk but can be low due to several factors, like the breed of cow, exposure to sunlight, diet and lactation. Vitamin D is also crucial to absorbing calcium, so it’s important that it go hand in hand with milk.

Fat Content
There was once a time when milk fat, and most fats, had a bad rap. But science is now understanding the importance of healthy fats. In fact, as Dr. Hind says, “there is no such thing as a healthy fat-free diet.” Vitamin D is actually fat soluble, meaning you need fat in order to absorb Vitamin D. You also need Vitamin D in order to absorb Calcium. And while Whole Milk may not be for everyone, the time has come for many of us to take a closer look and not skim on the milk fat too much.

Lactose Free Milk
There really is such a thing as lactose-free milk. Producers use regular milk and then introduce lactase, a natural enzyme that breaks down lactose into easily digestible sugars called glucose and galactose. This actually mimics the natural process that occurs in the human digestive tract of people who do not suffer from lactose intolerance or sensitivity.

Dietary Options
Dairy, real dairy, isn’t right for everyone. There are dietary restrictions, both voluntary and non-voluntary, that require more options. So we carry a full range of specialty milk, including goat’s milk, nut milk, coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, and even hemp milk. There’s definitely something for everyone.