Milk Does NOT Always Have to be Refrigerated
I first have to say that I have never been a milk person, meaning I don´t like it plain and its main uses are for cereal and tea or coffee. Besides that I think it has a weird flavor and I have never understood how kids drink it with dinner. In the United States our milk is always refrigerated and generally tends to go bad in about a week. We also have four main types of milk: whole, skim, two percent, and non fat. In Barcelona there are only three types of milk: whole, skim, and non-fat.
As a person who doesn´t really like milk, arriving in Barcelona to find that the milk was not refrigerated was rather alarming. In the supermarkets there are literally crates of milk next to the refrigerated section. My first thought was how could this be? In America if our milk is not refrigerated then the milk goes bad within hours. My friend and I kept wandering through the supermarket and finally found a cold milk section. I looked at the expiration date and it was in two weeks! This made me uneasy, I still could not understand how milk could stay good for so long!
So, I started my research. I didn´t want to drink the milk until I knew why it could stay good for so long, as well as why it doesn´t have to be refrigerated. In the United States there are two types of production; Grade A for consumption and Grade B for indirect consumption such as cheese making. In the United States dairy farms are mainly local, while in the Southern Hemisphere dairy companies can be large nationwide or transnational companies. The main difference between the American milk and milk in Barcelona is the level of pasteurization.
Pasteurization is the process that kills harmful microorganisms by heating the milk for a short period of time and then cooling it. A newer process called ultrapasteurization heats the milk to a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. This allows the milk to have a longer shelf life and allows the milk to be stored unrefrigerated because it is highly sterilized, but it affects its taste adversely. The alternative to ultrapasteurization is microfiltration in which the milk is forced through a ceramic filtration system. It has a longer shelf life, and doesn´t change the taste!
After I did my research I was still a bit uneasy about drinking this highly sterilized, ultrapastuerized milk, but I decided to try it. I poured some into a bowl of cereal and chomped away. It was not as bad as I expected! I now use the milk in my cereal and with tea and coffee. I know that many other countries also have unrefrigerated milk, so if they do it just means its been ultrapastuerized and is very sterile, so DRINK AWAY!