Types of milk

Fresh Milk

Regular or full-fat milk
On average contains 3.8% milk fat and no less than 3.2% milk fat. It’s pasteurised and homogenised. Also known as full-cream or whole milk, it has a rich and creamy texture. Reduced-fat milk has approximately 2% milk fat and may have extra protein and calcium added.

Low-fat milk
Has less than 1.5% milk fat and the same nutritional benefits with boosted calcium content.

Skim milk
Has no more than 0.15% milk fat. Milk solids are added to optimise the taste.

Modified milk
May be protein-enriched, high in calcium, iron-fortified or low in lactose to cater for a range of dietary requirements.

Ultra-filtration (UF) milk
This style of milk is also enriched with protein and calcium.

Lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk
Suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. Lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk has some or all of the lactose (the sugar found naturally in milk) removed, making it more easily digested for those with lactose intolerance.

Buttermilk or cultured milk
Has a tangy flavour similar to natural yogurt and is excellent for baking. A special starter culture is added to the pasteurised milk to develop the flavour and acidity.

Flavoured milk
Flavours are added to full-fat, reduced-fat, skim, modified or long-life milk. While they may have added calcium they can also have a higher kilojoule level. Some are sweetened with low kilojoule sweeteners.

Fortified milk
May be full-fat or reduced-fat milk that has had nutrients added such as calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. This is in addition to the nutrients naturally found in milk.

Tips on handling fresh milk
Packaging milk in cartons or opaque plastic containers ensures that the milk is protected from sunlight. Although glass bottles are available, remember that exposure to sunlight will partially destroy some of the vitamins, particularly riboflavin (vitamin B2) and will make the milk taste unpleasant.

  • Keep milk refrigerated at 4°C in the original package as temperature fluctuations will shorten its shelf life.
  • The use-by date gives the expected shelf life (usually 10 days) when refrigerated at 4°C.
  • Milk containers should always be covered as milk will absorb other flavours and become tainted.
  • Freezing milk can destabilise the main protein, casein. The milk may appear slightly curdy when thawed.

Concentrated Milk

Evaporated or Unsweetened Condensed Milk
To create evaporated or condensed milk, the total milk solids are increased to 28% by the gentle evaporation of water. Skim evaporated milk has total milk solids of about 20%. After concentration, the milk is canned and sterilised to destroy bacteria and enzymes to ensure a long shelf life. It also causes a slight caramelisation of the milk sugar (lactose) giving the evaporated milk its typical colour and flavour. Chilled evaporated milk whips wonderfully to about three times its volume and can be used instead of cream. Blend with cream cheese for a fabulous cheesecake.

Sweetened Condensed Milk
This is especially where refrigeration is limited. Sugar is added to act as a natural preservative. This process is controlled carefully to maintain a smooth texture. Sweetened condensed milk can replace both fresh milk and sweetener in coffee, tea and desserts. It’s also an excellent thickening agent in salad dressings, sauces and desserts.

Powdered Milk
An evaporated pasteurised milk concentrate containing about 40% milk solids dried to reduce the moisture content to about 3% and prevent particles from clumping together.

Instant Milk Powders
Additional techniques are used to further reduce clumping, such as coating the dried milk particles with lecithin, a natural substance found in milk and in eggs.

Tips on handling milk concentrates and powders
Unopened cans  of concentrated milk remain in peak condition for six months or more when stored at room temperatures. When opened, cans or product diluted by water should be well covered and stored as for fresh milk. Unopened powdered milk will remain in peak condition for a year or more if stored in a cool dry place. Once opened, reseal as tightly as possible to avoid the build up of moisture.

Long-Life Milk

Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT)
A powerful heat treatment ensures that all microorganisms and heat-resistant enzymes are deactivated. Long-life milk can be stored unopened out of the refrigerator for extended periods, but must be refrigerated once opened. Available as full-fat, reduced-fat, low-fat, modified and skim milk.  It can be great to have on standby in the pantry if you run out of fresh milk.

Long-Life versus Fresh Milk
Have you given UHT milk a fair go lately? It’s easy to forget about the shelf-friendly staple when many of us head straight to the supermarket fridge to buy fresh milk. The question is, how does UHT milk compare to its fresh counterpart? Does it have the same nutritional value as fresh milk and how does the heat treatment affect the vitamins in milk?

UHT or long-life milk contains all the nutritional goodness that you would expect from any Australian dairy product and contains no additives or preservatives. Like fresh milk, long-life milk contains at least ten essential nutrients. The difference between fresh and long-life milk is the method of processing. Fresh (pasteurised) milk is heated to 74°C for 15 seconds. Long-life milk is heated to 140°C for two seconds and then packaged aseptically. The increased temperature at which long-life milk is treated results in a greater reduction in bacteria and heat-resistant enzymes in comparison to milk that undergoes pasteurisation – giving it an extended shelf life. 

Long-life milk can be used for cooking in the same way you would use fresh milk, but the advantage about cooking with long-life milk is that it is already at room temperature. As foodies might know, this is a real positive when baking! The best thing about long-life milk is that it can be kept unopened in the pantry for up to six months, which means no more unexpected trips to the supermarket. Once opened, long-life milk must be refrigerated and used within seven days.

Tips on handling Long-Life Milk

  • Unopened, it can be stored out of the fridge for up to six months.
  • Store it as you would fresh milk once opened and use within seven days.

Raw Milk

Milk is a highly nutritious, safe and natural food, and consumers today can choose from a wide array of different products. Australian food law, which is based on comprehensive risk assessments, requires drinking milk to be pasteurised. Being a natural product, ‘raw’ – or unpasteurized – milk is susceptible to contamination with bacterial pathogens, but is made safe by pasteurisation.

With increasing interest in ‘natural’ foods, alternatives to traditional pasteurisation are always being examined. However, any change has to be balanced with the need to ensure that food safety is not compromised. The dairy industry is at the forefront of food safety worldwide and supports research into alternative technologies. At this stage, however, the industry believes pasteurisation by heat treatment is essential to ensure that milk is safe to consume. Consumers can be assured that all of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk are available from pasteurised milk without the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk.