Everything you want to know about milk

Canada has a tightly controlled supply management system which sees all milk go into a central pool where it is processed and homogenized and then distributed to the grocery stores.

Over the last decade, more milk options have become available across Ontario as smaller dairy farms have started to process and bottle their own small-batch milk under the Project Farmgate initiative. It allows farmers to pasteurize, bottle, brand and sell their own milk, rather that it joining the central pool and being sold under major labels.

With more options, new terminology and different nutrients in our milk products, I wanted to break down the all info to better understand what I am consuming and why some milk taste better than others.  


What is Pasteurization?

All milk in Canada must be pasteurized and is mandatory by Health Canada. It is the process of heating and cooling the milk quickly which kills the harmful bacteria, making a safer and longer lasting product. Pasteurization is the main reason for milk’s extended shelf life.

The most common pasteurization method is is heating milk up to at least 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds, then rapidly cooled to 4 degrees. This is known as High-Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurization or flash pasteurization. This will keep milk fresh for 2-3 weeks. Most popular milk brands use this type of pasturization.

Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT), is when milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of two seconds. This processing results in a shelf life that can extend up to nine months.

Diseases prevented by pasteurization can include tuberculosis, brucellosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and and also kills the harmful bacteria Salmonella, Listeria, Staphylococcus aureus, and e coli among others.

What does HOMOGENIZED and Non Homogenized mean?

Before milk is homogenized, the cream naturally rises to the top.

Homogenized milk means fat molecules have been broken down and dispersed more uniformly and absorbed in the milk.

Unhomogenized milk (or Cream on Top) means the consumer has to shake the milk container to incorporate the cream before pouring. You can also use the cream on top for your coffee. 

Are Canadian cows allowed Hormones?

Growth hormones to stimulate milk production such as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) are not approved for use in Canada. To maximize milk production, producers make sure that their cows are healthy and well-nourished.

conventional vs. organic vs. grass fed milk

When Rolling Meadows came out with their grass fed milk, I wanted to understand what made them different from organic.  Long story short, the main differences  comes down to the cows diet.

The term grass-fed is unregulated; unlike the term ‘organic’, there is no certification program to provide oversight. Essentially, it is left to the supplier to earn the consumer’s trust.


What is A1 or A2 milk?

Milk consists of three parts: 1) fat or cream, 2) whey, and 3) milk solids or proteins (aka lactose, casein)

One protein beta casein has been claimed different depending on what breed of cow produces it. (Either A1 beta casein or A2 beta casein)

These two proteins are digested by our bodies differently. Some that are sensitive to milk, find the A2 easier to drink. A1 type has been shown to interfere with our immune response

  • A1 beta-casein comes from the most common cow breed Holstein. A1 beta-casein can be found on all commercially-prepared milk.

  • A2 beta-casein is protein found in milk produced by 'old-fashioned' cows like the Jersey or Guernsey

When tested in the UK, Guernsey milk tested had more than 95% A2 which compares with 40% A2 in Jersey milk and 15% in ordinary milk.

Today, some cows produce only A1, some only A2 and some both proteins. In regular milk production, all the cow’s milks are typically blended together, so you get a mix of proteins in the carton. In Canada, we predominantly drink milk from Holsteins or A1 cows. In Ontario, Holsteins make up 93 per cent of Ontario’s herd.

A2 Milk has already popular in Australia and New Zealand, where it was introduced over 10 years ago and is sold in all major grocery stores.

Ontario Milk comparison

Below is a list of my favourite organic or small-batch milk in Ontario. Give some a try!


Why do smaller dairy farms supply milk in glass bottles?

  • Milk tastes better out of glass

  • The bottles are attractive

  • Keeps the milk colder, which most find tastier

  • Farmers can easily see where the fat levels are

  • They are eco-friendly and can be reused many times