If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping fresh milk from a local dairy farm, you know what a difference it makes. It has a richer flavor and a creamier, more decadent mouth feel. The difference is partly the cows, their diet, and their treatment. But more often than not, it’s also because you’re drinking vat pasteurized milk.

For hundreds of years, people have employed vat pasteurization techniques to remove dangerous bacteria from the milk we drink. Large corporate dairy interests have switched to ultra pasteurization in the last few decades because it kills pathogens much more quickly. However, this process employs high temperatures that destroy more than just harmful bacteria.

At Pete’s Milk Delivery, we prefer the old methods. They’re effective at removing the bacteria you don’t want while maintaining everything that you do. Here’s why.

Temperature vs. Time in Vat Pasteurized Milk

To begin, it’s helpful to understand how food pathogens are killed.

The application of heat is the most common method. Anyone that’s ever cooked meat knows that you need to bring the internal temperature up to a certain level to guarantee that all pathogens have been eliminated.

Health authorities have established minimum temperature standards that promote safe consumption. For example, they say you should cook chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF. Hitting this temperature, even for just a few seconds, will kill off any bacteria present in the meat.

What many people don’t realize is that lower temperatures are equally effective at killing bacteria. But the lower the temperature, the longer the food needs to be heated. You can guarantee safe chicken at temperatures as low as 140ºF, but instead of seconds, you must maintain the temperature for 35 minutes. This is how croc kpots and other slow cookers work.

This ratio between temperature and cook time defines the difference between vat pasteurized milk and the ultra pasteurization methods employed by large corporate dairy interests.

Ultra-pasteurization employs temperatures high enough to kill all pathogens in two seconds or less. Vat pasteurized milk flips the ratio, favoring a lower temperature and a longer heating time.

The two methods result in the total elimination of harmful pathogens. But the high temperature utilized by ultra pasteurization also damages sensitive milk proteins and eradicates all life, including beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in milk.

Why Low Temperature Long Time (LTLT) Pasteurization is the Better Choice

Smaller, local dairies understand that vat pasteurized milk, which utilizes LTLT methods, results in healthier, better-tasting milk.

Consider the temperature difference involved. Ultra pasteurization heats milk to 280ºF. That is extremely hot. By contrast, vat pasteurization requires a temperature of only 145ºF.

Whereas ultra-pasteurization finishes in two seconds or less, vat pasteurization takes 30 minutes. This extended heating time is the reason large dairy conglomerates abandoned LTLT methods. Massive operations are commonly more concerned with efficiency than flavor and texture.

Ultra-pasteurization does extend shelf-life, which is essential when milk sits for a week or more before it’s 4 delivered to stores. But this isn’t a concern for local dairies that normally deliver within a few days or less.

Vat pasteurized milk still lasts two to three weeks under standard refrigeration. Additionally, the lower heat doesn’t destroy the beneficial enzymes, proteins, and bacteria that make milk such a wholesome, delicious staple.

In the end, vat pasteurization results in milk that tastes better, is easier for dairy sensitive people to tolerate, and is considerably more nutritious. Ultra-pasteurization creates a more shelf-stable product but sacrifices flavor and nutrients.

In years past, your only option may have been big-name dairies and their high-temperature pasteurization methods, but today, family farms that treat milk properly are proliferating. Pete’s Milk Delivery is proud to bring many of the best to businesses and other organizations around the Pacific Northwest. Try some for yourself!