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What is UHT Milk?

SOSUA, Dominican Republic- This is the future of milk: it is called UHT milk or long life milk. It comes in a box, it can live without refrigeration for 6 months until opened. It can be shipped far from its source of production, it can be traded internationally, it saves money that would otherwise go towards preservation, and reduces loss through spoilage.

This kind of milk has quickly become the standard in many Latin American, European, and Asian countries. Any traveler who consumes milk will drink UHT milk when traveling, it is the standard.

Box of UHT Milk in the Dominican Republic

UHT milk is vastly cheaper to purchase than fresh milk, and it is cheaper to ship and store due to its lack of refrigeration needs. It is also said to be better for the environment because it does not necessitate the mass use of refrigeration prior to sale and, apparently, reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from milk production.

In Belgium, France, Portugal, and Spain UHT milk consists of over 90% of the total milk consumed. I project that these numbers are similar for many Latin American and Asian countries as well.

I once tried to avoid this milk, it came in a box and I thought it was full of chemicals and preservatives. I thought wrong.

I brought home a liter box of long life milk yesterday from a corner store in the Dominican Republic, and my wife shot it a rather hairy sort of eyeball.

“It was the cheapest they had and it says that it doesn’t have any chemicals or preservatives on the box,” I explained my purchase.

“Then how do they keep it from spoiling if it doesn’t have any preservatives?” Chaya asked skeptically, knowing well that this long life milk sits on grocery store shelves for a very long time.

I could not answer Chaya’s question. If the milk did not need to be refridgerated, then it must have chemical preservatives in it, right? Milk is still perishable, right?

Apparently, I am wrong.

UHT milk free of additives and conservatives

Chaya put UHT, or long life milk, up on the inspection block. This is what she found:

UHT stands for “Ultra High Temprature processing,” which is just another way of heating milk to kill bacterial spores. In the pasteurization process, the milk is heated to 72°C (161.6°F) for at least 15 minutes, whereas the UHT process heats the milk at 135°C (275°F) for one to two seconds. This flash of extreme heat is said to kill off any spores in the milk, and is currently a process that is being used for other products such as fruit juices, cream, yogurt, wine, and soups.

UHT milk tastes different than its pasteurized milk cousins — it tastes like it comes from a box — it tastes burnt. But the economic incentives behind producing, shipping, selling, and buying this type of milk is quickly making it the global standard. England recently tried to put forward a motion to convert 90% of the milk sales in their country to the UHT variety under the banner of reducing greenhouse emissions, and many other countries — particularly those in warmer regions where refrigeration is challenging and expensive — this UHT milk is now known only as “milk.”

Ingredients of UHT milk

UHT is the name of milk on planet earth, and I predict that it will soon constitute 90% of all milk sales in virtually every country on the planet where commercial dairy products are bought and sold. Like most else that is fresh, wholesome, and good tasting, pasteurized milk is meeting its extinction to give life to its more economical, longer lasting, boxed doppelganger. Just as pasturized milk sent truly fresh milk to the golden aisles of the health food store and back corner of the farmer’s market, UHT milk is making pasturization a practice of the past.

There is information to the contrary, but it is my impression that UHT milk is virtually the same as pasteurized milk nutritionally. The same voices who say that the pasteurization process rearranges the protein structures of milk say that the UHT process does this even more. They may be right.

But what I do know is that under the banner of saving money and convenience, taste, as well as nutrition, will always be sacrificed. “Price is right” is the true inter-cultural mantra of planet earth.

I am a traveler, I drink the same things as the people in the country I am traveling in. I want to save as much money as I can today so that I can travel another day. I too, drink boxed milk.


Cheap Eating — Food Around the World — Technology

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Filed under: Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Food

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3164 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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