The New Face of Milk

Images courtesy of fairlife, LLC

Images courtesy of fairlife, LLC

Imagine my surprise when I spotted a “new” brand of milk at the store this week while looking for non-fat milk.

I read the label. Non-fat, 30% more calcium, 50% more protein, 50% less sugar and lactose free.

Have you seen this milk?  I had not even heard of it let alone researched it.

Into the cart it went.

 

 

Fat Free FairLife Milk - Photo by Baking Nana  No color adjustments or editing.

Fat Free FairLife Milk – Photo by Baking Nana
No color adjustments or editing.

 

I usually buy low-fat milk but I needed non-fat milk for a special guy who needs a low-fat, high protein, low sugar diet. This ‘new’ milk seemed to be exactly what we needed.

I poured a glass and amazingly it didn’t look like the typical bluish non-fat milk. It passed the taste test, in fact for non-fat milk it tasted really good.

I made 3 different recipes and it worked great, in fact nobody could detect the non-fat, lower sugar aspect of this milk.

 

 

Living in dairy country I thought I knew quite a bit about milk production and processing. I decided to do a little research on this new milk. My jaw dropped  and my heart sank when I saw,   ‘Franken-milk‘  & ‘Coca-Cola’s Fair Life Milk Isn’t Fair‘  My initial reaction was anger.

Nowhere on the label did it say, Coca-Cola.  I questioned myself, “Would I have bought this milk if it had listed Coca-Cola anywhere on the label?” Clearly the answer was, “NO”.   Deep inside, I have a distrust of ‘Big Food’ and Coca-Cola is about as big as they come.

I will be honest, I wanted to like this milk. I was disappointed.  I read the articles mentioned above plus quite a few others, I checked out the Fairlife website. How is milk with more calcium, less sugar and lactose free actually achieved? I wanted to know how more. I kept researching, reading and asking questions.

Here is a short synopsis of what I discovered.

  • To refer to this milk as ‘Franken-milk’ implies that it is not real milk.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Fairlife milk is REAL milk, produced by real cows, on real dairies.
  • Coca-Cola did not ‘invent’ this milk or the process used to produce it.  The Coca-Cola Company is the distribution partner for the products that fairlife creates, markets and sells.
  • Fairlife milk is produced by dairy farmers who belong to a dairy co-op, Select Milk Producers. Not unlike most commercial dairies in the United States.  The difference between Select Milk Producers and other dairy co-ops is that the milk from one dairy is not co-mingled with milk from other dairies making it possible to trace back to the source.
  • Milk we buy at the grocery store (Organic or not) is deconstructed and then reconstructed to a specific formula.  Is  Fairlife’s Ultra Filtration process much different?
    I don’t think so.
  • Expense:  Many critics suggested that fairlife milk is twice as expensive as ‘regular’ milk.  It is more expense than store brand milk, about twice as much.  At my local market this week fairlife milk was $3.50 for 1.5 liters. The cost doesn’t seem out of line. when compared to similar size Lactaid at $4.99 or Horizon Organic at $5.29, Alta Dena Fat Free at $2.99  I don’t know how much raw milk costs but I am certain that it is more expensive.
  • Bethany McDaniel of Primal Pastures, is the author of “Why Coco-Cola Fairlife Milk Isn’t Fair”  which was the first article I stumbled upon when researching Fairlife milk.  I admire Primal Pastures and Bethany’s enthusiasm for real food.  For me, she missed the mark when comparing Fairlife milk to raw milk.  Considering we can’t all have a milk cow in our backyard (nor would we all want to) and I can’t walk up the road to buy raw milk directly from a local dairy, I think it is unfair to call fairlife milk ‘Franken-milk’. If that is the case, then all processed milk products could be called ‘Franken-milk’.
  • In California it is still possible to buy raw milk for drinking purposes however it comes with a warning and is not readily available.  (Raw Milk and Dairy Products, Risks and Recommendations) The sale of raw milk for drinking purposes is illegal in some states.

I realize this leaves me in the unenviable position of appearing to defend Coca-Cola. As I stated above, Coca-Cola is the distributor of Fairlife milk.  Is it possible that with soda sales declining, Coca-Cola branched out to provide a more wholesome product that consumers have been asking for? In defense of dairy farmers Mike and Sue McCloskey the founders of Fair Oaks Farms and of dairy farmers nationwide, who by the way, are some of the hardest working, caring people I know, referring to this product as ‘Franken-milk’ is disingenuous.

Fairlife Milk ComparisonThere is a market for a lactose free, high protein, low sugar milk.  Ideal for those who are diabetic (half the sugar), for those who have at least one family member who is lactose intolerant (no more buying 2 or 3 kinds of milk) and it fits the profile for those who eat a high protein / low carb diet.

Fairlife milk is not organic however they do not use rBST growth hormones.

I found myself impressed to learn that Fair Oaks Farm is ‘Powered by Poo‘.  Farm waste (manure) is transformed into energy to fuel the farm, barns and processing plants. Is this just a ‘feel good’ ploy or am I correct in thinking this is ‘modern’ responsible farming?

Knowing what you know now, would you purchase this milk distributed by The Coco-Cola Company?

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Comments

The New Face of Milk — 18 Comments

  1. I just came across your site this am and started reading your articles. Just finished “The New Face of Milk” and am impressed the research you compiled. I am curious if you have ever done any on canned milk? I really don’t care for the canned milk that is available on the west coast. Approximately 55 years ago I was able to tour the Milnot plant on the Missouri/Oklahoma border. At that time Milnot basically had two plants in one with the border running through the center of the plant. Milk from the Missouri cows could not be mixed or processed with the milk from Oklahoma cows and could only be sold in those states. Since that time that has changed. The animal fat is removed from the milk and this is pretty much all I remember. At the time my uncle worked in the lab and took us on the tour. It is used just like the other canned milks, but Milnot can also be whipped like whipping cream and makes the best homemade ice cream. I don’t understand why it is not available out west.

    • Hi Suzanne.
      I had never heard of Milnot milk – I had to do a google search.
      I have not done a lot of research on canned milk.
      Apparently, Milnot milk is evaporated milk where the milk fat has been replaced with vegetable oil. Therefore is is labeled cholesterol-free.
      According to Google this is called, ‘Filled Milk’. Seems that is available online, I can’t say I have seen it here on the West coast though.
      Penny aka Baking Nana

  2. How very interesting! I’m most intrigued right now over the fact that its listed asbeing ultra filtered, not ultra pasteurized. Any idea if this milk is pasturized and homogenized?

    • Hi Tara.
      The milk bottle says Ultra-Pasteurized. And yes, it is homogenized.
      From their website: Ordinary milk is pasteurized at a high temperature for 15-20 seconds. We pasteurize our milk at an even higher temperature for less time. That gives fairlife much longer shelf life unopened. After opening, its shelf life is the same as ordinary milk.

      • A short follow up here –
        Most Organic Milk is Ultra Pasteurized as well. It is my understanding that the high heat processing involved not only extends the shelf life and kills bacteria but also destroys a milk enzyme. This is why ultra pasteurized milk is not suitable for making cheese.

  3. Glad you shared this. We buy fat free, lactose free milk since hubby is lactose sensitive. The price you mentioned is not a significant difference at all. If the product is indeed as great as it appears, then I would not be swayed by who produces it at all. More power to them for projecting a positive image on a product!

    • We tend to buy milk 1/2 gallon at a time now, instead of buying a gallon and throwing a lot of it away. There are a couple of people in the family who are lactose sensitive so having lactose free milk on hand would be nice.
      Having The Coca-Cola company as the distributor has made it possible for this milk to be sold nationwide. I find it interesting that Coke ventured into the milk business.
      Thanks for stopping in Julie.

  4. Half the sugar and lactose free are big plusses for me and more protein as well just adds to the likelihood that I’ll try this milk. I think many people don’t realize how much sugar is in milk. I wish they’d come out with half and half.

    • Janet, There seems to be many benefits to this milk. More protein, less sugar and more calcium. But it left me wondering, “is this too good to be true?” They don’t have half and half but they do have Whole Milk, which I have not tried.

  5. This kind of milk is new to me, too. Interesting to say the least. I appreciate the research you put into this. Quite often I am left scratching my head on the conflicting reports I read about “good for you” food these days. We don’t drink a lot of milk but I do like to keep it on hand. Quite surprisingly I have found that organic milk lasts longer that non-organic – at least from the time I buy it until it either starts smelling or the use by date has passed. Who knows how long regular milk has already been sitting around by the time it gets put on the grocer’s shelf though. Also, I’m left with not knowing what to trust anymore. One day this is good for you and the next thing you know a new ‘study’ has come out stating otherwise, or vice versa. I hate that the food industry has become so political, too!

    • Hi Kelly. One of the reasons that Organic Milk lasts so much longer and has a longer expiration date is because of the pasteurization method. Because there are fewer Organic dairies, the milk has to travel much further to reach its destination. Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to a higher temperature which is also the method that fairlife uses.
      There are several methods of pasteurization and they all involve heating the milk to kill bacteria and some milk enzymes.
      “Heating milk up to at least 161.6 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, which is known as High-temperature Short-Time (HTST) pasteurization, or flash pasteurization. This method will keep milk fresh for two to three weeks. Then there’s Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT), whereby milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of two seconds. This processing results in a shelf life that can extend up to nine months. Milk treated with pasteurization or HTST is labeled as “pasteurized,” while milk treated with UHT is labeled as “ultra-pasteurized.”
      Who knew there was so much to know about something as simple as milk.

      • Whew! My head hurts! And sitting here watching TV and fiddling w/ food photos lo and behold but a commercial for Fairlife milk comes on. Now who knows…maybe I’ve seen it before but just ignored it but your posting here has brought it to my attention now. 🙂

        • Ha! I have heard (read) about the Ad Campaign and the commercials but have never actually seen one. I don’t watch a lot of TV – I am not a TV snob but the TV and remote control belong to NB Papa!

  6. Interesting, Baking Nana, and I respect your research. I didn’t know our milk was deconstructed and then reconstituted. Kind of like orange juice, right? I don’t buy much milk, but DH loves it in coffee, and he hasn’t given up dry cereal, so he needs some. This whole thing is another big “UGHH!” for me, though, I have to say!

    • We are not huge milk drinkers either. I buy a half gallon at a time and it lasts us a long time.
      Most processed milk, organic or not goes through processing that involves far more than pasteurization. It removes all the essential elements and then is reconstructed to exactly 1%, 2% or whole milk which is 3.5% milk fat.
      The fact that ‘The Coca-Cola Company’ is involved is unnerving to me.
      So many questions……

      • As the daughter of a dairy man, I can attest to the hard work that goes into this mostly healthy product. My cousins are still dairymen and probably shudder at the thought of Coca Cola coming into the picture. Because of my risk for breast cancer,I buy Costco’s organic non fat at about $3.50 per half gallon. It is ultra pasteurized so the refrigerated life is usually several weeks out. Just think I will take a pass on Coca Cola milk. Too much like big agra to me.

        • Julie: Since writing this I have seen the price fluctuate from $2.50 to $5.00 for 1 1/2 liters. But here is the thing, compared to other high protein drinks, it is not out of line. It really comes down to Coca Cola – which doesn’t sit well.
          Dairymen are the hardest working guys I know. I admire them.
          Those local dairies are producing for Alta Dena and other producers. Once the milk leaves the dairy what happens to it isn’t their call.
          My point is that it is unfair to compare any commercially produced milk, including ‘FairLife’ to raw milk, which is most likely nutritionally superior, but not obtainable to most people.

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