Warmer temperatures shorten dairy shelf life

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A cold glass of fresh milk can be a great start to the day, unless that milk has spoiled unexpectedly.  As the seasons change, sour milk is a common complaint to dairy companies.

"Typically, it's because we're getting warm outside," explained Kleinpeter Farms Dairy President Jeff Kleinpeter. "The refrigeration, our store refrigeration, the truck refrigeration, the home refrigerator, everything gets stressed this time of year."

Milk should be stored at a temperature between 33 and 36 degrees.  However, when things warm up outside cooling systems inside often have to work overtime.  That means refrigerators may not be working as well as they should, shortening the shelf life of your dairy.

"It's incredible how much shortened the shelf life is of milk when you're at 39 or 40 degrees temperature. You're taking like ten days off of that code date," said Kleinpeter.

The fact that milk needs to stay cold is nothing new, but why exactly? Like all dairy products, milk naturally contains some bacteria. While harmful bacteria is killed during pasteurization, some bacteria do survive.  Cold temperatures keep the number of bacteria low.  The lower the bacteria count, the better the milk tastes.

At Kleinpeter Dairy the bacteria count of milk is monitored literally from the cow to the shelf.  Samples of raw milk from the farms and samples from each batch of the final project are tested.  The samples are scored on a scale from one to ten; the lower the number the lower the bacteria count.  If the score is too high, a notice is sent to investigate why.

The milk's temperature is constantly monitored too.  Within a few seconds of being harvested from the cows, the milk is chilled to near freezing.  That temperature is maintained as long as possible throughout the bottling and shipping process.

"We're real sensitive about that. We understand the seriousness of the situation," said Kleinpeter.

However, quality control does not matter if the fridge in the store or the home is too warm.  To keep your milk, and other groceries fresh, invest in a thermometer to insure your fridge is working properly.

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