Photo of a pitcher and a glass of milkWow! Do you know why milk is almost universally homogenized and pasteurized in this country? I didn’t know why, but I’m old enough to remember when the mantra “homogenized, pasteurized” was spoken with acceptance and approval. I remember when, but I don’t remember why (or probably never knew) the change from the delivered fresh to the door every morning milk.

The latest edition (Spring, 2011) of the Wise Traditions quarterly from The Weston A. Price Foundation includes an article,”A Campaign for Real Milk,” by Steve Bemis, Esq., about raw milk and raw milk cheese. The information that caught my attention was about how the pasteurization and homogenization process became the combined standard in this country. I guess I had assumed that pasteurization was mandated due to a concern for food safety, but, no, the motive appears to be primarily profit. According to the article, “it had been feasible to pasteurize milk on an industrial scale for more than sixty years.” The standardization of the process began because there was much competition among milk producers in the 1940’s and 50’s based on the “cream line.” Customers valued the cream–which separates in raw milk–and judged the quality of the milk they bought on the depth of the “cream line.” The problem: if the full amount of cream was left in the milk, it could not be used in more profitable products like ice cream.

As Steve Bemis states, “Homogenization, which effectively removes the cream line, solved this problem.” The homogenization process starts with the removal of all the cream. Some cream is added back to produce the various grades–whole, 2%, 1%, 1/2%, and of course no cream in skim milk. After creating the new types of milk, the milk is homogenized so that no “cream line” is visible–you can’t tell how much cream (or how little!) is left. The actual process of homogenization involves thousands of pounds of pressure that break down the fat globules in the milk. These small particles will no longer rise to the top. However, homogenizing the milk did create another problem! Homogenized milk “with no further processing will go rancid within a matter of hours.” That’s where the requirement for pasteurization comes in. Pasteurizing the homogenized milk extends its shelf life by killing the “liquid phase enzymes.” So, “once the dairy industry took the homogenizing step to follow the dollars, it had to pasteurize.” Pasteurized milk does not need to be homogenized, but homogenized milk must be pasteurized, and the profit to be gained from homogenizing the milk led the way to the requirement for pasteurization.

For information about the safety and value of raw milk, go to