Hansen’s Milk and Homogenization

July 5, 2012 9:43 am


Most milk sold in stores has two statements on the label: pasteurized and homogenized. “Pasteurized” means that the milk has gone through a heating process to kill bacteria. We pasteurize our milk, as required by state law in order to sell it. We will write a post on that, too, but it will come later. “Homogenized” means that the milk has been processed to break up fat particles and distribute them evenly.

Our milk is NOT homogenized!

Why? Well, first a little background…

When milk is in its natural state, it separates into two “parts”: the fat globules form a cream layer on top, and the fat-depleted liquid full of protein is left below. Homogenization was developed in France (c. 1900) to prevent this separation. Hot milk is pumped through very small holes at super high pressure. This tears the fat globules into smaller pieces that are evenly distributed through the liquid because there is greater surface area for the protein in the milk to stick to. The fat globules in homogenized milk are more protein-heavy than in non-homogenized milk (Source 1, below).

Because enzymes in milk are broken down into much smaller pieces, they are able to enter a person’s bloodstream and potentially injure the arterial walls. The body protects those areas by producing cholesterol which, if done often, can be problematic (Source 4, below). Research shows that when the enzymes enter the blood stream, hardening of the arteries can occur. Non-homogenized milk is left in its natural state and the enzymes are not small enough to enter the blood stream (Sources 2-4, below).

Some research has shown that all this protein on the fat globules can increase the likelihood that homogenized milk will cause allergic reactions. Our bodies react to foreign proteins (in this case, milk proteins from cows) by making histamines and mucus, and sometimes even triggering auto-immune diseases (Sources 2-4, below).

Initially, the reason we chose not to homogenize is because it would have put our milk through another process. We wanted to keep the milk in its most natural state possible. Homogenization also requires more equipment space, time and money in the bottling process. Since it wasn’t required of us, why do it?

Offering non-homogenized (or “creamline”) milk has required some consumer education. All of our milk, even skim, should be shaken before each serving to redistribute the cream that has risen to the top. We have “SHAKE” written on the label under the expiration date to remind customers. Most people are pretty used to it by now.

We now realize the decision to not homogenize has served us — and our customers — well. What a happy side effect to often hear from customers who are lactose intolerant that they are able to drink our milk. Children who cannot tolerate cow’s milk (even organic) are sometimes able to drink Hansen’s milk. This is a big deal, and we are proud to promote health in our community!


  1. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee (fantastic book!!), has a chapter on Milk and Dairy Products. It’s available as an e-book.
  2. ProCon.org (compilation of research on both sides of the debate)
  3. Raw-Milk-Facts.org
  4. Natural News