Boxed Milk, Safe as Refrigerated?

Longtime reader Justine wanted to know about Horizon Boxed Milk:

I buy these for my daughter (just the regular 2% milk) and have always wondered why they don’t need/are never refrigerated. Is there some weird ingredient they are sneaking in that I should know about?

Good question!

What you need to know:

The boxed milk is perfectly safe and there are no shenanigans here.

Shelf stable packaging is achieved by pasteurizing the milk at a much higher temperature than normal (over 280 degrees Farenheit vs 180 for regular pasteurization) and immediately packing it into an aseptic (sterile) vacuum box. This process is also called UHT , for ultra high temperature of the pasteurization.

You can see that the ingredients are exactly the same as regular milk:

Organic Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3.

The shelf stable milk can be stored at room temperature for several months, but once opened (and the vacuum is gone), it must be refrigerated.

What to do at the supermarket:

When you choose boxed milk, make sure the box is intact, with no punctures.

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  • annie

    ……and the dumbing down of Organic continues. to allow for ultra-pasteurization of organic milk is to go against the grain of the whole movement of REAL organic food.

  • Rachel Assuncao

    I didn’t know how they made things like milk shelf-stable…thanks for the info!

    I would be interested to know how much more milk is degraded by pasteurizing at a higher temperature like that.

  • J in VA

    Sadly, almost all organic milk is ultra-pastuerized.

    I know many people buy it for convenience and availability; but, raw from a local farmer (even if not “organic”) would be far healthier.

  • Bev

    White glue, like Elmer’s is made from casein. Casein is milk protein. Do you think that UHT might make the casein more glue-like?

  • Holly

    I always have a few of these in the pantry. I don’t drink milk at all, and I’d rather have these on hand than buy containers of milk that will mostly go to waste on those rare times when I want some. If the alternative is fresh milk from the market, these don’t even compare, but when the alternative is to make your cocoa with water, they’re suddenly a pretty good idea.

    • mearepaige

      Same here! I use milk only when a recipe calls for it and having boxed milk in the cabinet is really convenient. I used to buy a bottle every couple weeks for the fridge and most of it would just end up going sour so now I am saving money. Boxed milk is much cheaper too (probably because it doesn’t need refrigeration in transit) and tastes exactly the same!

  • Lauren Slayton

    Also very good for a house you aren’t always at. It beats getting milk at a convenience store when you arrive late at night.

  • Bill M

    They have been making boxed milk for years. It is popular in areas of the world where refrigeration was impractical. First saw it in Costa Rica in High School. The old method (same temp I presume) would result in a little brown tinge to the product from a small amount of caramelization of the milk. Now, they have perfected the process to eliminate the browning.

    @Bev, Elmer’s is not made from casein. Also, casein glue can be made with any milk, preferably skim, without heat. It is just the milk protein. The process is basically like making cheese.

    • Brenda

      Another question: once aseptic milk has been refrigerated (unopened, as in putting several in just in case), can it be removed from the fridge, stored at room temperature, and refrigerated again? Or is this like beer – it will taste skunky (LOL)?

  • sketch

    another question is what are the containers lined with? wax? plastic? etc…

  • Marta

    Couldn’t find the email function somehow. I was wondering if the plain instant brown rice available in the store is as good as the original version? Are there any nutrients lost in the process?

  • Brooke

    Also to add under “what to do at the supermarket”(or resturant) – Don’t be fooled into buying the flavored milks that look very similar to these boxes! They have lots of added sugar and honestly, I would love to see Horizon re-vamp this product into something that doesn’t taste like a melted milkshake.

    On another note, these boxes are great to have on hand for spoiled toddlers who still like warm (or in this case, room temperature) milk before bed – no need to heat it up!

  • Lori Emmons

    I’m thinking that pasteurized, homogenized & sterilized too…Why drink dead milk? I’ve started using hemp milk instead…it’s a great source of Omegas.