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To compliment my recent post on pasteurization, I thought I would also cover homogenization as well. I've gotten this question a few times recently and I thought I'd post some info about homogenization and why it is bad for our milk.
Milk is essentially a mixture of water and oil. And, we all know that these two liquids don't mix well. If you've ever had raw milk or non-homogenized milk, you will have seen that the milk fat separates from the milk and rises to the top. This cream is considered liquid gold by many people. When the cream separates from the milk you are essentially left with skim milk. Some people considered it an inconvenience to have the cream and the milk separate because you had to spend a little time shaking or stirring the milk to get the cream to disperse into the milk.
Homogenization came about in 1899 by a French inventor, named Auguste Gaulin. It is simply a process that breaks all of the milk fat globules into smaller sizes to help prevent them from rising to the top of the bottle. When it first started out, many consumers didn't like the idea of homogenization. It took nearly 20 years for homogenized milk to take hold and start being successful. The biggest selling point was that people were led to believe that homogenized milk was easier to digest.
The process of homogenization requires the milk to have high pressure, about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per square inch, applied to it in order to break up the milk fat molecules. It's usually done in two steps. The first step requires the milk to be pushed through small tubes and with the small diameter of these tubes, the milk fat is forced to break apart. After that, the high pressure is applied.
Once the milk has passed through the homogenization process, you end up with a chemically-altered product. The milk has been subject to an unnatural process of ridiculously high pressure and heat, which alters the color, flavor and nutritional value of the product.
This is a fantastic article by Mary Enig on Milk Homogenization and Heart Disease, if you're interested in reading more.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons