Milk in German Supermarkets-Explained
Just like any other product in German Supermarkets, milk also comes in wide varieties. In this article, I shall try to explain milk and its varieties commonly available in supermarkets in Germany and how to identify and understand them. But before I get to the details of different products, I would like my readers to understand the different ways in which milk can be categorized.
Once you understand these, it will be easy to understand the different products.
1. Categorization of milk based on the treatment:
Milk can be categorized based on the treatment it has undergone before it reaches the consumer. These are:
Pasteurization is a sterilization process carried out so that the milk is safe and fit for human consumption. Milk is heated to 75 degrees for a few seconds to kill bacteria.
Raw milk, known as Rohmilch in German, is not allowed to be sold in supermarkets. However, you can find them commonly in shops attached to farms. Raw milk is not considered safe for consumption. Milk available in supermarkets is always pasteurized.
Homogenization is a process that involves pumping milk through small openings under very high pressure, thereby reducing the size of the fat globules. This causes the fat globules to disperse evenly throughout the milk. Note that if milk is not homogenized, the fat and water components of the milk separate. However, if it is homogenized, the fat globules get evenly distributed in the milk, making it more homogeneous.
The milk available in supermarkets is mostly pasteurised and homogenized. Homogenized milk is less nutritious than ‘only pasteurized’ milk because some vitamins and folic acid are lost during the process of homogenization.
3. ESL procedure:
ESL stands for Extended shelf life. In this process, fresh milk is either heated to 127 degrees Celsius for a few seconds or is made to go through a microfiltration process. This is done to extend the shelf life of the milk. This milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Milk labelled ‘längere Haltbar‘ is ESL treated milk.
4. Ultra-high temperature treated:
This process is also done to increase the shelf life of milk. Milk is heated up to 150 deg, which kills microorganisms and enzymes. This milk is available as H-Milch or with the label UHT in german supermarkets, and you can store it in a closed carton without refrigeration for several months.
This is milk is easy to digest. However, heat-sensitive vitamins are lost in the milk due to ultra-high temperature treatment.
5. Treatment to make Lactose free milk:
Milk naturally contains water, lactose, proteins and fat. To produce lactose-free milk, lactose is broken down into the simple sugars glucose and galactose by adding the enzyme lactase. These have a higher sweetening power than lactose, which is why lactose-free milk tastes sweeter. This is labelled ‘ laktosefreie milch‘ in German supermarkets.
- Milk which has not undergone processes 3,4 or 5 mentioned above is available as ‘frische Milch’ (fresh milk). It usually stays good in the fridge for about ten days. After opening, it should be consumed within three days.
- You will also see milk labelled as ‘Pasteurisiert, nicht homogenisiert‘ (meaning that it is pasteurized but not homogenized), ‘pasteurisiert, teilhomogenisiert‘ (meaning pasteurized and partly homogenized) and ‘pasteurisiert und homogenisiert’(meaning pasteurized and homogenized).
2. Categorization of milk based on Fat content:
Milk produced by the cow usually comes with 4% fat. However, in dairies, this fat percentage is altered, and different varieties of milk are produced. The labels on the cartons show what percentage of fat the milk contains.
Based on fat content, milk is available as:
- Vollmilch: This is whole milk. It contains 3.5% fat.
- Fettarme Milch: This is low-fat milk. It contains 1.5% – 1.8% fat.
- Magermilch: This is skimmed milk. It contains no more than 0.5% fat.
- Naturfett: This milk contains 3.8%-4.2% fat.
3. Categorization of milk based on how the cattle are reared and what they are fed:
Based on how the cattle are reared and what they are fed, the milk produced can be categorized as:
- Heumilch: This translated to Hay milk. If a milk carton is labelled Heumilch, it means that the cow was not fed silage. Instead, the cow was allowed to eat fresh grassland fodder, hay and grain.
- Biomilch: This is organic milk. If a brand labels its product as Biomilch, then they have to ensure that the cows must always have access to pasture and enough freedom of movement in the barn in winter. They must not be given genetically modified feed or preventive medication, and each cow gets at least six square meters of barn space.
- Weidemilch: Weide means meadow. It means that the milk manufacturer has ensured that the dairy cows have been out on the pasture for at least 120 days for six hours/day.
- Alpenmilch: Alpen means the Alps. This means that the milk has come from the Alps or the foothills of the Alps. However, the term alpine milk says nothing about the husbandry or feeding of the animals.
- Landmilch: This label can be put by any milk manufacturer. To label any milk as Landmilch, no specific requirements have to be met.
Now that we understand all three categories, it is easy to understand the product that we are buying. I shall take up a few examples:
- This milk is in raw milk ( called Rohmilch in German). It has no label and is usually sold through milk vending machines in farms. Boiling this milk before consumption is recommended, but it may be noted that even boiling doesn’t kill all the bacteria. Many studies have shown that raw milk is not entirely safe for consumption, which is why many countries, including Germany, do not allow its sale in supermarkets.
- This is pasteurized milk ( not homogenized). It is also labelled Frisch, meaning it has not undergone heat treatment that extends its shelf life. Therefore, after opening, you should consume within three days. Vollmilch means that it has 3.5% fat. This milk can be used for making ghee too. Read my article to know more.
- This is labelled frisch, meaning that it is fresh milk. It has not undergone heat treatment that extends its shelf life. Therefore, after opening, you should consume within three days. This is Vollmilch, meaning whole milk with 3.8% fat.
- This is fettarme Milch, meaning that it is low-fat milk. It is 1.5% fat. It is labelled längere Haltbar, which means that its undergone ESL treatment and can, therefore, be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. It is also pasteurized and homogenized.
- This is H-Milch, which means that it has undergone ultra-high heat treatment. It can be kept outside for several months. This is low-fat milk with 1.5% Fat. It is also pasteurized and homogenized.
- This is Alpen Milch. The producer claims that this milk comes from somewhere near the Alps. This is haltbar, meaning it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Fat content, as mentioned, is 3.5%.
This way, once you understand the categorization based on processing methods, fat content and rearing conditions and feed, you can easily identify and understand the various milk varieties in German Supermarkets.
Some additional Notes:
- In Germany, the most commonly available milk is cow’s milk. However, goat’s milk is also available. It is called Ziegenmilch.
- Milk also comes combined with flavours. The most common one is Schokomilch, meaning chocolate milk. It is milk mixed with cocoa, sugar etc.
- Drinks made with almonds, coconut, oats etc., are not allowed to be called milk, so they are sold by the name Mandel drink ( almond milk), Cashew Drink ( Cashew milk), Haselnuss Drink (hazelnut milk), Hafer Drink ( Oat milk), etc.
To learn about other products in German Supermarkets, click here.
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12 responses to “Milk in German Supermarkets-Explained”
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