whole milk isn't really *whole*

March 31, 2014

whole milk isn't really whole | suzyhomemaker.net

When you think of the word whole when describing food, you usually think less processed; a product closer to nature. Unfortunately, with whole milk, that is not the case. Whole milk tends to be just as processed as any other milk unless it is raw milk.

So what does the term whole milk really mean? It actually just relates to the amount of fat in the milk. There are regulations regarding how much fat must be in milk.

Skim milk - less than .1%
1% milk - Yep, 1%
2 % milk - you guessed it 2%
Whole milk? - 3.25%

Whole milk must have at least 3.25% milk fat. It can have more, but cannot have less. It would seem that for whole milk, dairies would milk the cow and simply take that raw milk and put it in a separate vat from the milk that would become skim or lower fat. But that is not usually the case. That would take more time, resources, and not be as efficient. Therefore they process whole milk the exact same way they process other milk.
To achieve standardization, milk is processed through centrifugal separators to create a skim portion and a cream portion of the milk. Separation produces a skim portion that is less than 0.01% fat and a cream portion that is usually 40% fat, although the desired fat content of the cream portion can be controlled by changing settings on the separator. The cream portion is then added back to the skim portion to yield the desired fat content for the product. Common products are whole milk (3.25% fat), 2% and 1% fat milk, and skim milk (< 0.1% fat). (source)
Which means that choosing whole milk under the assumption that it is a less processed product simply isn't true.  If you cannot find raw milk, the next best thing would be unhomogenized milk from pasture-raised cows.