What is Vitamin D milk?
March 9, 2021 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Help this US American figure out what this Canadian is asking for.

During Covid I've been getting groceries for a friend. She is from Canada (BC area), I am from the U.S. We both reside in the U.S. now. She has asked for "Vitamin D milk" each week, and where I am from all milk has Vitamin D in it, so I just got her 2% or skim with Vitamin D. This was not right though and after weeks(!!) of me buying the wrong milk, I realized she meant Whole Milk. At least I think she did, because that was the first milk she didn't reject.

Is this a Canadian thing? A term that people use for Whole Milk? I tried to ask her, but I didn't really get an answer. So, two questions:
1. Have you heard of "Vitamin D milk"? If so, what is it?
2. Is "Vitamin D" Milk a term for "Whole Milk" where you live? If so, where are you??
posted by Toddles to Food & Drink (67 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm in the midwestern US and immediately knew Vitamin D was whole milk. I think it's called that because most (all?) milk has Vitamin D added, so if you don't have a unique fat content to refer to, it's just Vitamin D milk? I don't call it that, but I know I've seen it on labels and have been tripped up when I can't find a gallon labelled Whole Milk.

Here's the store brand of a local grocery store, which is labelled in the picture "Vitamin D Milk", but titled on the website "Vitamin D Whole Milk".
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:53 PM on March 9, 2021 [10 favorites]

1. Yes, it’s full (4%) milk.
2. Yes, Oregon.
posted by girlalex at 9:53 PM on March 9, 2021

1. Yes - I think of it as a term for whole milk that older generations in some places might have used
2. No - the places I've lived (Minnesota, Wisconsin, NYC, Miami, London) it's always been 'whole' or in the UK 'full-fat'
posted by theory at 10:10 PM on March 9, 2021

I've heard whole milk called vitamin D milk in the Midwest and East Coast of the US. It's a long standing thing. Kroger, the largest grocery store company in the US with locations pretty much all over, calls their house whole milk Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble so it makes sense to emphasize it on the highest fat milk for people specifically looking to increase their intake.
posted by Candleman at 10:30 PM on March 9, 2021

I've never really heard it called that, but it's like the only identifying thing on a whole-milk label, so I automatically assumed that must be what they were talking about. (There *might* have been a couple older - as in would have been 90-110+ now if still living - relatives that called it that, I'm not certain.

And that would be my assumption if someone did. I'd figure that was what they meant - but then I'd also figure they were either my grandparents' age, or sort of clueless about different types of milk actually were (which would also point at older...)

Oregon here.
posted by stormyteal at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

1. No, not that exact phrase. I just see Vitamin D added to most of of the milk we purchase.
2. No. (SF Bay Area.)
posted by Seboshin at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2021

So this may sound hard to believe but if she’s Canadian you can ask if she means homo milk. Like others have said, whole milk is just milk so in many parts of Canada it’s called homogenized milk, shortened to homo milk. It’s the same as “Vitamin D” milk. So while I understood what she meant I’d not refer to it like that.
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 PM on March 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

Growing up in California, Vitamin D Milk was always the label for whole milk.
posted by Pacrand at 11:03 PM on March 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am 36 years old, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and have lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles as an adult. I have never heard this before. I also would have been completely confused. I asked my partner (same age, grew up in Cleveland) what he would get if I asked for Vitamin D milk and he said, “Uh, I’d check the nutrition labels, I guess?”

So, you’re not alone, at least!
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 11:17 PM on March 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

I am from BC and never in my life have I ever heard anyone call anything "Vitamin D milk."

The common BC milk brands are:

Island Farms/Natrel

None of them use prominent Vitamin D marketing or branding. If someone is in the interior they *might* see some Dutchmen's milk which does prominently display a "D", but it is a pretty localized brand.

You also sometimes see some brands like Lucerne, which is not a BC brand but does buy from Agropur and other BC producers and distribute under the Lucerne brand. I don't see them often, though.

I even looked through the product listings for all of the above and didn't see packaging advertising Vitamin D, so I'm totally stumped where this person commonly found Vitamin D labeled milk in BC. I'm really curious what brand it was! Was it a niche one? Were they on the border of Alberta and so it was an Albertan brand?

Anyways, if you image search Vitamin D Milk you will find products like this one. It is clearly labeled as Vitamin D milk and in smaller print below you can see "Grade A Pasteurized Homogenized", so I think GuyZero nailed it with "Homo Milk."
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:40 PM on March 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Grew up on LI in the 60s and 70s. Knew instantly that she was referring to Whole Milk. While my family used to call it "Milk", the carton or bottle that was delivered said, "Whole Milk, Vitamin D". Maybe Vitamin D was added? I was too young to know or care. I just wanted my Bosco chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk (natch). U Bet syrup was second choice.
posted by AugustWest at 11:45 PM on March 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

from LA and this is the 1st I've heard of it. ralphs cartons were whole, low fat or nonfat.
posted by brujita at 11:48 PM on March 9, 2021

I don’t think this is a Canadian thing, or if it is, it’s not a BC thing. I am in my 40s and have spent my entire life in BC. I have never heard of the term “Vitamin D milk” (all milk here is fortified with Vitamin D) and I would not have known it referred to full fat milk, which I would call whole milk. I’ve also never heard any of my older Canadian-born relatives use the term Vitamin D milk.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:01 AM on March 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

It may be that the largest print on the container, of the local milk she's adjusted to, are the words 'VITAMIN D'. The store brand, dairy name, etc are just background noise. As in, "Dish soap? I forget what brand name, I get the stuff with the cartoon frog on it. I just call it frog soap. The small bottle." I can see someone knowing their preferred, but not much attention paid to, milk as 'I dunno, the Vitamin D kind'.

A note, for those who don't know, or never thought about it. Someone in the dairy aisle was once very grateful when I explained that when confronted with a US milk section's packaging:
Red = whole, or full-fat, milk. It will be homogenized, meaning mechanically stirred up to the point where the fat doesn't rise and separate when idle. (Americans will giggle when Canadians call this 'homo milk', because they are 7 year old children.)
Blue = lower, say 2%, milkfat content. Often called 'two-percent'.
Paler blue, like a robin egg = 1% or lower. Often called 'skim'.
Things like heavy cream will usually be in another color, like purple or dark green.

This color coding applies for pretty much any milk in the US, regardless of store or brand, cardboard container or plastic screw top.
Red for heavy, blue for light, lighter blue for something one notch above whey. If you want to start putting heavy cream, like for whipping into merengue, in your coffee, look for lavender or something odd, the smallest size container.
posted by bartleby at 1:01 AM on March 10, 2021 [11 favorites]

Grew up outside DC; all milk fortified with vit D as far as I can remember; never heard the term vitamin D milk before this question. To me, that's like saying calcium milk.

Never realized about the color coding, bartleby! To quote the finest Sherlock, Michael Caine, "one sees but one does not observe".
posted by basalganglia at 3:12 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have never heard anyone call whole milk "vitamin D milk" (raised in Michigan, now live in DC) but if someone asked for it, I would assume that whole milk is what they were talking about because of how it's labelled.
posted by fancypants at 4:17 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

In my early 30s from the Midwest. I think this term was used around me growing up sometimes, along with "whole milk." Now living in the northeast, can't remember hearing it recently.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:28 AM on March 10, 2021

Bartleby is correct but preferred not to include green milk which is 1% milk fat. Pale blue skim is theoretically .5%.

We have a lot of milk choices!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:29 AM on March 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I live in Ontario and have lived in BC and AB and have lots of east coast friends. Have never heard of this. I don’t think it is a Canadian thing.
posted by girlpublisher at 4:41 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I knew this, and I grew up in Manitoba. However, I have substantial family in Michigan, and it's possible that I picked it up from them; a lot of people who knew this upthread seem to be from the Midwest.

My wife, who grew up in the backwoods of New England, had never heard the term before.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:47 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

We lived in Ontario for a decade and this absolutely means whole milk.
posted by chasles at 5:08 AM on March 10, 2021

I grew up in northern California and have lived in Seattle, New York, Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles and Massachusetts for more than a couple years each. This is the first time I’ve ever heard the phrase “vitamin D milk” and I’d have been as bewildered as you were.
posted by ook at 5:21 AM on March 10, 2021

Canadian from Ontario here and I've never heard milk called that, and yes milk always has vitamin D in it. Most people drink 1 or 2% milk here.
posted by lafemma at 5:24 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Vitamin D Milk is whole milk.
I hear this pretty frequently in central Illinois, more commonly from older or more rural people. I don’t use it myself, but I’m not from the Midwest.
posted by obfuscation at 5:27 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

From BC never heard that expression.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:27 AM on March 10, 2021

In NY, never heard of it referred to as Vitamin D milk. Growing up in the 80's and 90's it was called either regular milk, whole milk, or red milk (based on the usual coloring of the carton).
posted by Pryde at 5:33 AM on March 10, 2021

1. No one I grew up around called it that, but I know (with reasonable certainty) that someone asking for that who is unable to clarify more would mean whole milk. I’m not sure where I absorbed that from.
2. Grew up in Maryland and I’m 37.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:47 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Paler blue, like a robin egg = 1% or lower. Often called 'skim'.

America's Dairyland must do it different because I've always known skim to be pink.

Local grocer, Meijer, Walmart
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:59 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Iowa/Minnesota here: we didn't use "vitamin D" to mean "whole milk" in my family, but I would have understood that's what was wanted if someone asked for it.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:07 AM on March 10, 2021

I didn't grow up in the US but have lived for the last ten years on the East Coast of the US. I immediately assumed she meant whole milk because Vitamin D is the most prominent thing I see on the packaging of many of the whole milk brands I buy.
posted by peacheater at 6:17 AM on March 10, 2021

I’ve lived in the northeast and Midwest US, and if someone asked me for Vitamin D milk I’d be checking labels to see if one brand is especially fortified, but would definitely not be looking for whole milk (probably the opposite; I know all milk has vitamin D in it so I would be looking for some kind of Ensure-like beverage.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:18 AM on March 10, 2021

I grew up in central Illinois in the 60s and 70s and have also lived in Kansas and Michigan. I've never heard this term before, and my guess would have been that Canada must have different rules for supplementing milk products and that this wasn't available in the US - even though I know that milk is routinely supplemented with vitamin D.
posted by FencingGal at 6:34 AM on March 10, 2021

1. Nope
2. Nope. Ontario, Canada. Whole milk would be "homo milk" here (short for homogenized)
posted by quaking fajita at 6:38 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am Canadian and although I was aware whole milk contained vitamin D, I did not hear it called Vitamin D milk until moving to Louisiana in the 90s, mostly by older people. I believe it was heavily marketed back in the day as Vitamin D milk. Although national brands are more common now, back then they probably had local and a few large regional dairy chains like Bordon’s, so presumably these marketing campaigns were also local.

An interesting but tragic side note to this was some dairies in the UK decided to pick up on the trend of adding vitamin D but were unaware how toxic it is and did not have any guidelines on how much could be safely added. Because it was so cheap they added a lot and there were a lot of illnesses and some deaths because of this.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 6:45 AM on March 10, 2021

Born and raised and 4 full decades+ in the lower mainland of BC, and I've never heard that term before. All Canadian (cow) milk (skim through whole/homo) has Vitamin D added by law.
posted by cgg at 6:56 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Chicago here. Here's what two of the most common brands of whole milk look like:

One is simply called "vitamin D milk". Doesn't even contain the word "whole". The other has the term as a secondary label, but still very prominent. I haven't ever heard someone call it that, but it's clearly a thing.

It was super confusing to me when I moved here. Trying to find whole milk and it's not even written on the label? I can only assume that "vitamin D milk" was a marketing attempt to not mention fat content. Some googling finds that apparently whole milk is (sometimes) the only one that doesn't need vitamin D supplementation.
posted by Jobst at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Americans will giggle when Canadians call this 'homo milk', because they are 7 year old children.

I'm not giggling, I'm desperately wishing I could move to Canada to be able to use homo milk in regular conversation.
posted by medusa at 8:09 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Grew up in Virginia. I would call it whole milk, but I would absolutely recognize that if they said vitamin D milk they probably wanted it since it doesn’t have a different defining characteristic like skim. Also, I have had different colors that correspond to my milk choices. I think I grew up with purple being 2%, and I have seen yellow 1%.
posted by Night_owl at 8:12 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

vitamin d milk = full-fat, non-skimmed, 3¼–4% milk fat milk from cows.

(Scottish, but lived in Toronto since 2002. The idea of adding anything to milk is very wat to me. How can it be whole if you've added something to it?)
posted by scruss at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2021

Early 40s, from the East Coast -- yes 100% I knew that meant whole milk. That's what used to be on the carton label at Food Lion (the local grocery chain) It's a pre-1990s regional thing.

I live in BC now and no one there calls it that, not even older folks.
posted by ananci at 8:15 AM on March 10, 2021

Here on the west coast US it's definitely marketed as whole milk, and all kinds of milk have vitamin D listed on the packaging, but here is some milk from a dairy in Pennsylvania. As a west coaster I had no idea this was whole milk.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on March 10, 2021

In Minnesota/North Dakota area, not that far from Canada, this milk has a red label with the words "Vitamin D Milk". Growing up, we didn't get this kind of milk, so it wasn't until I was teenager that I specifically realized that it was also assumed to be whole milk.
posted by past unusual at 8:24 AM on March 10, 2021

Yes, I know that Vitamin D milk means whole milk, but I worked in the food business before becoming disabled and have for decades collected old cookbooks. I would not have expected most people to know this. Age 45, grew up in Fairfax County, VA, outside of D.C.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:25 AM on March 10, 2021

Another Canadian who has never heard of Vitamin D milk. All grocery store milk has Vitamin D. If your friend is asking for Vitamin D milk, it's not because it's a Canadian term (like double-double or two-four), but some other social/cultural thing.
posted by angiep at 8:59 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

All the schools I went to as a kid (mostly in the US South) in the 80s-90s labeled the whole milk single-serving cartons as either "Vitamin D" or "homo", but I'm not sure I ever saw that labeling system in stores.
posted by wintersweet at 9:44 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Grew up in North Florida in the 80s-90s and immediately recognized Vit D milk from a school lunch context--I don't remember anyone calling it anything but Whole Milk, but for whatever, reason the school milk cartons were always Vitamin D, Skim, or Chocolate.

On Preview--maybe this was a Southern thing =)
posted by Jemstar at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2021

Yet another elder millennial Canadian from BC but has spent the last 12 years in Ontario and no, I've never heard of Vitamin D milk before.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2021

I (NYC/New England) have never heard of this and would be baffled by it on a shopping list.

I asked my mom, who was born and grew up in Canada (Calgary/Vancouver) and whose parents owned a grocery store, and she’d never heard of it either.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2021

Canadian, I have lived in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta and have never heard homo milk called Vitamin D milk.
posted by FungusCassetteBicker at 1:30 PM on March 10, 2021

I'm confused. It seems you've bought milk for this person multiple times. Would it not be easiest to ask them to clarify themselves?
posted by turkeyphant at 3:47 PM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Vitamin D milk immediately to me means whole milk. Grew up in Michigan, Gen X. I say whole milk now, but I wouldn't have even blinked at Vitamin D milk. Homo milk was also a term I understand, but was less common.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:26 PM on March 10, 2021

I have never heard of "Vitamin D Milk" being shorthand for whole/homogenized milk, and I grew up just south of the Ontario/New York border.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:36 PM on March 10, 2021

Yes, but was it in a bag or a jug? This thread is super interesting actually, I had never heard of Vitamin D milk before. But Homo or Whole Milk are common terms here in Ontario.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 7:57 PM on March 10, 2021

Side note from an Albertan - When I first learned the word 'homo' for gay as a kid (in the '80s, and I didn't get what gay meant, although it was apparently a bad thing) I was like - "What? That's a kind of milk".

I'm giggling now, but in day to day life, the term honestly doesn't have any weirdness for people. It's just the 4 percent milk with the red lid.
posted by kitcat at 10:24 PM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Northern California, never heard of this. The whole milk we most often buy doesn't say anything obvious about vitamin D.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:52 PM on March 10, 2021

In my life (New Jersey and California) the distinction was always whole vs skim.

This thread is interesting because I learn new things about how people call things, but also because it's a case of people choosing to distinguish between two thing by something they have in common. It would be like referring to adults as "mammalian humans" to distinguish them from kids. And everyone who does that saying "of course mammalian means adult in this context!" (I'm not saying they'd be wrong, it's the quirkiness of the language I like.)

This color coding applies for pretty much any milk in the US, regardless of store or brand, cardboard container or plastic screw top.

This may not be as universal as you suggest? It's certainly true at my Trader Joe's and a chain store, but in other local stores I use it's not the case.
posted by mark k at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2021

I am Gen X and lived in several different parts of Canada. I’ve only heard whole milk called homo milk, never Vitamin D milk.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2021

Just popping back in to say I had also never heard the phrase “homo milk” until today.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:57 PM on March 11, 2021

I'm from Massachusetts and have lived in Vermont and have a lot of dairy type neighbors and I was actually more familiar with "homo milk" than with "Vitamin D milk" Also the cap colors here are different from the ones described above, it seems to vary by brand.
posted by jessamyn at 4:15 PM on March 11, 2021

When I was growing up a long time ago, "Vitamin D milk" was the common/colloquial/slang name for whole milk.

I think it's because the label doesn't show it as skim or 2%, so it just advertises the Vitamin D added (which is really in all of them). Usually it had a red label.

I haven't heard it called by that term in ages, but as soon as I read your question, I knew exactly what she was asking for.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:46 PM on March 11, 2021

Toronto and UK - never heard this, never seen it on a label.

Toronto - 1%, 2% etc.

UK - skimmed, semi-skimmed, full-fat
posted by tinkletown at 1:32 AM on March 12, 2021

Oh and the colors: Red=whole, Green=2%, Blue=skim. Brands that sell both 1% and skim use dark blue for the former and light blue for the latter. I’ve never seen a different color scheme around home, but I’ve never looked when traveling so I can’t vouch for that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 AM on March 12, 2021

Degrassi (Canadian kids TV show) played with the "homo milk" thing in an episode from 2005. (Plot twist: the person who spit out her milk ended up going as the other girl's date.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:53 AM on March 13, 2021

I grew up in Indiana and immediately knew it was whole milk. My gf from Oklahoma had no idea what it was.
posted by theRussian at 7:39 PM on March 14, 2021


For the longest time as a kid, I assumed that the blue milk they drank in Star Wars must be skim; that’s how strong the color association was.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 PM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just adding my two cents:
- I immediately knew "vitamin D milk" was referring to whole milk. Though, I call it whole milk.
- Grew up in suburban NJ
- I'm an older millennial
posted by carpyful at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2021

The term Whole Milk and Vitamin D milk are often used for the same product…so its very confusing to consumers. Legally, Whole milk does not have to be fortified with Vitamin D because there is sufficient milkfat (Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin) to meet the nutritional requirements outlined by the federal product standards. Only reduced fat, low fat, and fat free milks must legally be fortified with vitamins (A & D). It the whole milk that you purchase calls out Vitamin D milk, then it is fortified with additional Vitamin D. The way to be certain what you are purchasing, is to read the ingredient label. If there is added Vitamin D, it will be called out as Vitamin D Palmitate.
posted by chocolatenights at 7:21 AM on March 19, 2021

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