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Last Thursday morning, Dean Sparks, a dairy farmer from upstate New York stopped by the office with some cheese, eggs, and milk. They come from nymilk, a New York state consortium of around 35 upstate organic dairy farms that average 60 cows apiece. They currently offer milk, eggs, and a raw milk cheddar-style cheese.

Now political or health reasons may compel you to purchase organic milk or local dairy already, but here's a better reason: this milk is really good. As in, the only milk I can remember having that's better was raw milk that had come fresh out of a Vermont cow's teat only hours before (and I drink a lot of milk). The obvious and huggy reason for this is that the cows this milk is coming from are simply better treated than the average commercial dairy cow, but there's another reason, and I think it's a more likely one: pasteurization.

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk (or other things) to sterilize it and improve shelf life. It's generally carried out through two different methods:

  • High-Temperature/Short Time (HTST) involves heating the milk up to 161°F for a minimum of 15 seconds. This is how most normal supermarket milk is treated, and results in a product with a shelf life of several weeks.
  • Ultra High Temperature (UHT) involves heating the milk to 275°F for one second. It results in a near-sterile product with a shelf life of several months. It also affects the flavor of the milk.

Here's the thing. Almost all organic milk is UHT treated.

Why? It's a simple matter of shelf-life. Organic milk doesn't sell as fast, so supermarkets need it to have a longer shelf life so that it doesn't go bad before it gets sold. In my local supermarket in Harlem, I believe I'm the only organic milk customer (I buy Stonybrook, and can see the exact same cartons in the exact same position week after week as I go to buy a new one). What this means is that the average organic milk consumer doesn't know what uncooked milk tastes like. It's to the point that I have friends who insist they can taste the difference between regular and organic milk, when really what they are tasting is the flavor difference between HTST milk and UHT milk.

The milk from nymilk uses a different process entirely. They pasteurize their milk by holding it at 145°F for 30 minutes, a much more time-consuming and expensive process. The difference is really remarkable, though. The milk just tastes fresher, cleaner, and creamier (the cheese is pretty good too). The shelf life of the milk is only about 2 weeks, but because it's only distributed through a few locations, they have no trouble moving it in time.

It's hard to say whether the better flavor of the milk has to do with the milk itself or is totally because of the pasteurization process, but either way, it's worth a trip to Eataly or a call to Fresh Direct to check it out (currently it's only available through those venues—hopefully it'll see wider distribution soon).

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