The main difference between these milks is their fat content. Full-fat (full-cream) milk typically contains 3.4 g of fat or more per 100 ml of which 1.9 g is saturated fat. Medium-fat milk contains less fat (typically 2 g of fat per 100 ml) of which 1.3 g is saturated. Fat-free milk contains less than 0.5 g fat per 100 ml of milk and only traces of saturated fat. Due to the lower fat content, the lower fat milk categories contain less energy and fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A and E. All other essential nutrients is approximately the same in all the different fat categories.
Fortified milk is milk that has been enriched with specific nutrients. The nutrients that are added are often based on population insufficiencies and often tailored for specific consumer categories e.g. folic acid, vitamin D, iron, protein.
Organic farming is a system of farming which avoids the use of soluble fertilisers, pesticides, feed additives and other chemicals. Most of the nutritional differences are small and related to the pasture grazing of organic cows. Organic milk usually contains higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, although the absolute amount is still quite low. Therefore, this may have little effect in the context of an individual’s overall diet. Organic milk also contains about a third less iodine compared to regular milk. Iodine is an important nutrient that contributes to cognitive function and is therefore particularly important for pregnant women.
Raw milk defined in terms of national health legislation means milk that has not undergone pasteurization, sterilization or ultra-high temperature treatment. Raw milk for direct consumption is generally considered to be of higher risk due to its potential as a carrier of harmful bacteria not normally associated with pasteurized milk. The general convention is that while the milk is in the production system of a healthy cow it is considered to be virtually sterile.
Ideally all babies should drink the milk of their own species and this is why breastfeeding is the best choice. Most mammals discontinue drinking milk once they have been weaned onto solid foods. However, infant nutrition is a specialised area and separate from general healthy eating guidelines. Cow’s milk is recognised as a nutritious food to be included after the age of 1 year. In general, humans consume the milk of other species in the same way they consume other animal products such as meat or eggs because all provide important nutrients. As humans advanced they recognised the benefits of dairy consumption; and so the practice of dairy farming evolved.
Milk can be frozen in a domestic freezer, which is usually -18°C, for approximately 6 weeks without altering the nutritional value or flavour of the product. However, upon thawing the texture of the milk may be altered slightly.
Milk is composed of a single, natural ingredient – milk! Although milk is pasteurised for food safety purposes, no colours, preservatives, sweeteners or flavours are used.