Jars of Raw Milk

Farms with a permit may sell jars of raw milk to consumers.

When shopping for milk, consumers will find a “sell by” date stamped on the bottle.

This is not the day the milk should be poured down the drain. This is the last date the grocery store can sell the bottle of milk.

The sell-by date is designed to give consumers time to use the product at home before it goes bad. Typically, milk stays fresh for five-10 days past the sell-by date.

Factors for spoilage include the following:

  1. Exposure to light
  2. Heat
  3. Packaging type
  4. Whether the container was opened or not.

Storing the milk in the refrigerator (and not on the counter while the kids eat their cereal) and keeping the cap clean help to make the milk stay fresh longer. If milk has a sour smell or flavor, it isn’t necessarily going to make you sick; it just won’t be appetizing. Once opened, milk should be consumed within seven days.

If the milk shelf is empty in your grocery store, you might wonder to yourself if you should stop by a local dairy farm on the way home. Milk sold in the grocery store has been pasteurized, meaning it has been quickly heated for a specific amount of time to kill bacteria that can make people sick when the milk is consumed. Some farms pasteurize, bottle, and sell milk on-site directly to consumers.

Visiting one of these farms is a great way to support your local dairy farmer. You can also support the Pennsylvania dairy industry when you buy milk at your grocery store. If the plant code on the milk container begins with the number 42, the milk has been bottled at a Pennsylvania plant.

In Pennsylvania, farms must have a permit to sell raw milk directly to a consumer, and most dairy farms do not hold that permit. “Raw” milk means that the milk has not gone through the pasteurization step to ensure safety. Farms that are permitted to sell raw milk to consumers are required to have their milk tested on a set schedule. Each batch of raw milk is not tested; testing gives a general idea of sanitation on the farm.

Individuals with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women, and senior citizens are at higher risk for becoming ill from eating or drinking contaminated food or drink.

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This article originally ran on lancasterfarming.com.