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Why Don’t Europeans Refrigerate Their Milk?

North America is one of the only places in the world that refrigerates milk.

When you are having a bowl of cereal or some cookies, there is nothing better than a glass of milk. Of course, we all love to drink our milk when it is ice cold. You have probably never seen your mother pull a carton of milk out of the kitchen pantry before, right? Americans buy their milk out of the fridge and that’s where it stays once it comes home.

Why is that, though? Did you know that America actually differs from the usual norm in this regard? We are one of the only countries in the world that partake in the practice of putting milk in the fridge. You may not have realized that Europeans actually buy and store their milk outside of the fridge. The reason is a simple one: Europeans rely on a completely different pasteurization method.

Canadian and American milk manufacturers utilize high-temperature, short-time pasteurization. This method is one of the best ways to kill off sizable amounts of bacteria. While the method is one of the most efficient ways to manufacture milk, it does lead to rapid expiration. Within seven to ten days of opening the milk, it will be time to throw it away.

Photo: Pixabay/congerdesign

If milk is able to hang on for a long enough period of time, the bacteria are given a chance to return. The HTST method may work well enough for Americans, but the Europeans rely on the UHT method instead. The milk is exposed to much higher temperatures for just three seconds. After being exposed to the temperatures, the milk is completely free of bacteria for at least six months.

Since the bacteria are all gone, the milk becomes more shelf-stable. This milk also has a much different flavor because most of the sugar that American milk contains has been burnt off. Companies have attempted to convince Americans to make the switch but there has been no luck so far. We are bound and determined to continue placing our milk in the fridge.

Different strokes for different folks, right? UHT milk is sold in the United States, though. These are the cartons that you see in children’s lunchboxes. Cold milk may be the only milk that we drink but there is a good reason for that. The Europeans have their own method that works for them as well.