The short (and unsatisfying) answer is it depends. If the milk is not organic and kept refrigerated, it should last around a week or so. If the milk is organic, however, and kept refrigerated, it can sometimes last as long as a month. The difference is due not to the quality of milk itself, but to the process used to preserve it. Organic milk, unlike regular milk which is pasteurized, is preserved through a process called “ultrahigh temperature” treatment.
Now, as for unrefridgerated milk, there isn’t an official consensus. The general rule-of-thumb is milk left unrefrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded, as with milk left in temperatures above 40 degrees. However this time frame varies from case to case.
“Regular” milk generally stays good for about 5-7 days after the sell by date. However, there has been some evidence that organic milk can last longer after the sell by date, due to the method in which it is processed.
According to an article from the Scientific American: “The process that gives the [organic] milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit (138 degrees Celsius) for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.”
Some people have found that organic milk can last much longer past the sell by date, sometimes even a month later.
Want to see if your milk is still good? Pour it into a glass and smell it to see if it smells sour or spoiled. Don’t smell it right out of the carton or jug, as the dried milk around the edges or lid will often smell sour before the milk has gone bad.
Milk lasts about a week after it is put on the selves in a store. Ironically organic milk lasts longer because it is treated differently. It’s heated hotter and therefore kills more bacteria than regular milk. Organic milk can last up to a month after it’s shelved.
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