What is Shelf-Stable Milk?

by Rootstock Editor

April 10, 2020

by Rootstock Editor

We are certainly living in strange times. Social distancing has many of us shopping infrequently and making sure the pantry is well-stocked. Since the refrigerator only has so much space for milk, shelf-stable milk is an ideal stock-up item for the current times, as well as for when things eventually settle back into a more normal routine.

Here’s everything you need to know about this long-storing and convenient milk.

You may have heard shelf-stable milk also called “aseptic” milk, but the most important thing to know is shelf-stable milk doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated. Amazing! And rest assured, if it’s Organic Valley, you’ll know it’ll taste delicious too. As long as shelf-stable milk is stored between 33 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (and as long as you’re even able to keep some on hand—it’s that tasty) it’ll be ready and waiting whenever you’re looking for a nutritious snack that’s full of flexibility. Refrigeration optional!

Now this might have you thinking, “Wait, doesn't all milk need to be kept cold?” Nope! Let us explain.

To make Organic Valley shelf-stable milk, we start with delicious, organic milk from our pasture-raised cows. Then, things get interesting. What makes aseptic milk shelf-stable is a unique combination of pasteurization and packaging.

Packages of Organic Valley shelf-stable products displayed on a wooden table.


Shelf stable milk is ultra-high temperature pasteurized, which will be labeled on the package as “UHT” or “ultra-pasteurized” milk. Pasteurization has been around for decades, but the more modern ultra-pasteurization process quickly heats milk to 280 degrees F for 2 seconds and then rapidly cools the milk back to 40 degrees F. Pasteurization eliminates more than 99% of potentially harmful bacteria and increases the milk’s shelf life so it stays fresher longer.

What is Shelf-Stable Packaging?

Packaging plays a critical role in making aseptic milk different from the milk you typically find in the refrigerator. For Organic Valley shelf-stable milks, we use Tetra Pak cartons, which contain six layers in a laminate of three materials: 70% high-quality paperboard, 24% polyethylene plastic, and 6% aluminum.

Paper provides stiffness, strength, and a space-efficient brick shape. Polyethylene makes up the innermost and outermost layers to make the package liquid-tight and provide a protective exterior coating to keep the package dry. An ultra-thin aluminum layer forms a barrier against light and oxygen. In addition, shelf stable milk is packaged in special plants that use fully enclosed equipment to ensure everything stays extra clean.

The combination of UHT ultra-pasteurization and shelf-stable packaging eliminates the need for refrigeration and prevents spoilage without the use of preservatives. This gives the milk an amazing shelf-life of 6 to 9 months! Far beyond anything you’d find in the refrigerator.

Related: Here are our Top 6 Organic Pantry Staples for Busy Families

Little girl enjoying drinking Organic Valley Single Serve Milk with a straw.

Photo contributed by allabouttre.

But...Does It Taste Good?

Yes! Shelf-stable milk tastes just like refrigerated ultra-pasteurized milk. Although you can drink it at room temperature, we recommend drinking it cold. Simply pop a few into the fridge every day or two and you’ll always have some ready for little hands to grab or for a post-workout recovery.

Here’s more good news for your pantry: Organic Valley shelf-stable milk is available in whole, lowfat 1%, and lowfat 1% chocolate milks in 6.75-oz. containers, perfectly sized for little hands. And it comes in 12-pack cases so you can stock up!

Is shelf-stable milk a good fit for you and your family? We can’t see why not! It’s perfect for when you might want to keep a little extra milk on hand as well as for life’s busy, on-the-go moments.

Where Do I Find Shelf-Stable Milk?

Not in the refrigerated section! Although, some grocery stores may stock shelf-stable milks near the dairy section. You might see it as an aisle end cap since they don’t need to be cooled. If your local store doesn’t carry Organic Valley shelf-stable milks yet, let the store’s dairy buyer know you want it!

Organic Valley shelf-stable milk is also available at many online retailers such as Azure Standard, Fresh Direct, and Amazon.