Origins & Information - (A-Z) Milk

There are so many different kinds of milk out there. I'm going to focus specifically on cow's milk for this post, however, because to cover all the types would be quite expansive. To start off with basics (and I apologize if this seems to be common sense), milk is formed from the mammary glands of mammals. For cow's milk, it would come from the udders of a cow. Naturally, it is used to feed the young but we have used it to create dairy products for human consumption through cows, goats, sheep, and other such animals. In addition to making us the odd ones for consuming another species' milk, this phenomenon makes us the only animals to continue drinking milk past infancy.

After milk has been collected from the cow, it goes through a series of processes before it reaches the general consumer. It is pasteurized, homogenized, and fortified. Pasteurization is the process by which milk is heated to temperatures that would kill off dangerous organisms. Homogenization allows for the milk fat to remain with the milk liquid and is the reason for the smooth, rich texture in milk. Fortification is the addition of nutrients to milk that are either new or were lost during the previous processes; Vitamin D is a common nutrient added on. Ultimately the milk we drink ends up providing a lot of calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin A, riboflavin, and niacin. These all help with bone/dental structure and growth, prevention of a variety of illnesses, smooth skin, and a strong immune system. For more on health benefits, check out

Milk types
  • Whole milk - < 4% fat and each cup is approximately 150 calories (half from fat)
  • 2 percent milk - 2% fat and each cup is approximately 120 calories (third from fat)
  • 1 percent milk - 1% fat and each cup is approximately 100 calories (fifth from fat)
  • Nonfat or skim - each cup is approximately 80 calories (none from fat)
  • Pasteurized - milk heated to at least 161° F for at least 15 seconds or 145° for 30 minutes.
  • Ultrapasteurized (UHT) - milk heated to at least 280° for at least 2 seconds
  • Raw (unpasteurized) - the FDA recommends that consumers not drink this

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!