Why does chocolate milk last longer in the fridge?
June 12, 2009 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Why does chocolate milk last longer than regular milk? I have a gallon of regular milk in the fridge, and some chocolate milk...the regular (whole for the baby, skim for us...) milk usually has an expiration date of roughly a week or so after we purchase it, but the chocolate milk has a date considerably further out...like a month...anyone have an explanation for this?
posted by katocolon to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would bet on the extra sugar and fats acting as a preservative.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2009

Great question I've also noticed the same with organic milk
posted by doorsfan at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2009

Does your chocolate milk use ultra-pasteurized milk, by chance? (That's why organic milk usually lasts longer.)
posted by jabberjaw at 9:27 AM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: just to clarify, both the chocolate and regular milk in the fridge is organic...
posted by katocolon at 9:27 AM on June 12, 2009

here is the Organic Milk answer

Organic milk lasts longer because producers use a different process to preserve it. According to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the milk needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since it is not produced throughout the country.

The process that gives the milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit (138 degrees Celsius) for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.

posted by doorsfan at 9:28 AM on June 12, 2009

Since they're both organic, you'll notice 2 ingredients in your chocolate milk that are not in your regular milk: sugar, and some sort of preservative. That is probably why it lasts longer.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:32 AM on June 12, 2009

The chocolate milk is probably UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) 'long-life' milk, with the sugar and fat from the chocolate masking the taste of the treatment.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2009

I'm going to theorize that it doesn't. The dates printed on many things like milk are estimates based on when they "taste best" more than they're any kind of health guideline.

Chocolate is well known for being a taste crusher -- the flavor of chocolate can mask just about anything, even milk that isn't quite as fresh as it used to be.

(Chocolate's the easiest ice cream flavor to make, and can be made with the lowest-quality ingredients, since the flavor is easy to mask.)

So stores can sell chocolate milk longer, since it won't be returned or annoy customers.
posted by rokusan at 9:54 AM on June 12, 2009

I noticed the long expiration dates with Horizon milk, and it turns out it's UHT (ultra-pasturization). I believe it says "ultra-pasturization" on the carton. Some of their milk is done this way, and some the other way. FWIW, I think the ultra-pasturization tastes better.
posted by Houstonian at 10:00 AM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: Here's the links to the cut sheets from Organic Valley for the milks in question:


Regular (Skim):

The chocolate milk has "carrageenan" listed. I'm assuming this is the magical ingredient that makes it seemingly last longer?

Also, who knew that my milk had a web page? Yay, internets!
posted by katocolon at 10:02 AM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: F. Sorry about the links, hive...





I get confused by HTML and am easily distracted by shiny things. Again, sorry.
posted by katocolon at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2009

Carageenan is a seaweed based thickener/stabilising agent. I don't think that's what's making it last longer.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2009

One time I saw the same thing then I noticed on the side of the chocolate milk the name Chocolate Milk Drink. Meaning it probably wasn't milk to begin with. I got 1% and a bottle of syrup then called it a day.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:10 AM on June 12, 2009

Fat definitely makes dairy products last longer: compare the dates on a jug of skim milk with those on a carton of heavy cream. But it sounds like both the chocolate & nonchoc milk are "regular" 4%, right?

Oh, but there's fat *in the chocolate itself*. Maybe that's the answer?
posted by kestrel251 at 10:15 AM on June 12, 2009

It sounds like it's just a stocking issue with the store or what is provided by the distributor. I buy organic valley milk in the skim and 1% varieties and unless the store is just at the end of its stock, the expiration date is usually out about 3 weeks or so.
posted by chrisroberts at 10:48 AM on June 12, 2009

Best answer: I worked in a dairy fill facility for a while, and while I wasn't involved with the pasteurization or flavor-adding end of things, I can tell you a couple of things...

Chances are, the chocolate milk is made in smaller quantities, and doesn't sell as quickly. This means that it moves from the fill facility directly to the store shelves, rather than being warehoused before it hits the floor. When milk is packaged for sale, it has a window of (I'm making this number up because I don't remember) 25 days for sale, the end of which is stamped as the expiration date on the carton. Most of the milk leaves the fill facility within 24-36 hours of being packaged, but where it goes from there can vary greatly.

In the case of a major grocery chain, it likely went from the fill cooler to a regional distribution point, where it sat before it was picked up and delivered to the store, where it sat in the back until it was put onto shelves for sale. There may be a few more steps of shipment / storage buried in there. Smaller store chains will likely lack one or two steps in that chain, or for "vanity brands", the milk may have been stocked directly into the stores by an agent from the dairy.

There is no difference in expiration dates placed on chocolate milk as opposed to plain coming out of the fill facilities. The difference is in how long the milk sits in storage before it reaches your hand and the checkout stand.

(For the record, milk SHOULD be good for about 7 days after the expiration date, as the manufacturers want you to have time to drink it before it goes bad. ALSO, just so everyone knows... the single facility I worked in did all the milk for about 5 different "brands", including the 2x2gal boxes from Costco. Chances are, the $2/gal is the EXACT SAME MILK as the $4/gal brand. That being said, after working in that fill facility, I will never complain about the price of milk again. A whole lot of people get paid out of each of those gallons and their sales.)
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Regular: http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/milk-and-cream/skim-nonfat/pasteurized-64-oz-1/

Chocolate: http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/milk-and-cream/chocolate/chocolate-2-64-oz/

As people said above (but before you linked to your exact products), if you linked to exactly the correct products, your milk is just "normal" pasteurized, while the chocolate milk is ultra-pasteurized. But, go look at your boxes at again to be sure. Organic Valley also makes an ultra-pasteurized version of normal milk, if you want it to last longer. If you can find it.
posted by skynxnex at 12:05 PM on June 12, 2009

I'm voting for the sugar, it's a pretty well known preservative. It's what makes preserves preserves. Though team Pasteurization has some good evidence on their side.

Notice no one sells sugar free chocolate milk?
posted by Ookseer at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2009

Sugar-free chocolate milk.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:07 PM on June 12, 2009

That link is only reduced sugar not sugar free. After 10 minutes of Googling for real premixed sugar freee chocolate milk and failing I stand by sugar.
posted by Ookseer at 8:44 PM on June 12, 2009

You can't have completely sugar-free milk because lactose IS sugar. That has no added sugar, yet it's still chocolate milk, so it seems unlikely that the sugar is the preserving factor. Three grams of sugar isn't going to preserve anything.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:15 AM on June 14, 2009

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