HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Discussion

Organic Homo Milk - Spoilage Issues

I buy the bags of Organic Meadow homo milk for my toddlers. In the past, I've often found that organic milk goes off before the expiry date but in the last 2 weeks, one bag went off about a week before the expiry date and now I'm questioning another bag that seems to have gone off 12 days before the expiry date!! In both cases, the milk still tasted fine but I noticed some clumps sticking to the sides of the bag/bottle and the last time, one of my kids had an off tummy.

Has anyone had any better experience with other brands of organic milk (Harmony, PC)? And in the world of smart choices, does the organic label on milk make that much of a difference in Canada or is all of our milk from drug-free cows (I appreciate that organic also means organic feed for the cows)? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. We're just bought organic meadow for the first time and noticed about 5 days before expiry the same clumbs you mention. We were slightly annoyed and probably won't buy again. Our normal brand is Harmony, which we've never had this problem before.

    1. Yep, I've noticed that too. And we were buying the milk for the same reason as you - to feed to a toddler.

      1. I cannot speak specifically to the Homo milk as I buy the Organic Meadow Skim in the bags. I find that the Skim is good even after the expiry date so I don't think that it is the fact that it is organic that makes it go off so quickly. What has been your experience with non-organic Homo? Does it also go off quickly? As far as whether you need to feed yourself and your kids organic milk, or organic anything for that matter, if you can afford it, I say do it. It can only be better for all of you. Cheers and Happy Lattes.

        1. In response...

          Wil - interesting, maybe I'll try Harmony to see if I can have a better experience. It's funny how I had come to accept the "5 day before due date" expiry problem but 12 days is ridiculous. I go through 8 litres a week!

          thought for food - did you come up with a better solution?

          Attknee - I don't buy that much non-organic milk but in general, whether it's the 1% for us adults or the homo for the kids, I have found recurring problems with early off dates on the organic stuff. Like you, I generally tend to think that organic is better (and I'm particularly focused on this with my kids), even though I'm less fussed about some things (eg. bananas). In any event, while organic may be better, organic "off" milk definitely is not.

          2 Replies
          1. re: peppermint pate

            Is it 'off' as in sour / bad, or are the clumps just the Butterfat separating out of solution?
            If the milk is bad it will definitely taste sour and you'll smell it before you can get the glass to your lips - or your toddlers.
            I've noticed the separation issue even on run of the mill 2% only days from bringing it home... but then I'm not in hyper sensitive protective parent with toddler mode.

            In the end take it back and complain, not just to the grocer or the kid behind the counter, but to the dairy. Let them know that you have a problem; if you don't tell them, well nothing will ever get fixed.

            G.

            1. re: legourmettv

              Hmm, the milk definitely didn't smell or taste "off" on either occasion but the bits of solids seemed more like the clumps you see when you stir bad cream into your coffee - would it look like that if it was the butterfat separating?

              Also, the last time this happened, one of my little guys (I have twins) definitely had a bad stomach, which I suppose could have been a coincidence but I chose to connect the dots. I have definitely followed up with the grocer, who replaced the total package of 3 bags at no cost, but now that it's happened again, I should also follow up with the dairy.

          2. The lack of emulsifiers in Organic Meadow dairy products may account for the butterfat separation. A while back, I exchanged e-mails with a representative from the dairy regarding clumping of the fat in their 35% whipping cream cartons. The person told me that because they do not add any emulsifiers, the products tend to separate. In my case, the whipping cream did not go bad, but it wasn't completely liquid anymore.

            2 Replies
            1. re: gnuf

              And that probably explains why it does not happen in the Skim, which has little fat.

              1. re: gnuf

                While this might explain the situation, it sure isn't certain and I have major doubts. Dairy products that are not UHT do not generally contain any additives. This is true whether the product is "organic" or not.

                For example, very few brands of conventional mass market milk in Canada contain any additives at all. Hewitt's cream products, including their whipping cream, while not organic, are not UHT and contain no additives. None of these conventional dairy products separate into clumps. Neither, apparently, do other brands of organic dairy products.

                I tried a container of Organic Meadow Homo milk a couple of months ago. On opening, about a week prior to it's best before date, it was both clumped and foul. Frankly, I think Organic Meadow has a problem. Non-homogenized milk might show fat separation. It should never happen to homogenized milk. Emulsifiers have nothing to do with it. While fat separation could happen to non-UHT whipping cream, it doesn't seem to happen to Hewitt's until the product has obviously spoiled.

                Looking at the other end of the processed food spectrum, I experienced this with the refrigerated PC eggnog offered just before Thanksgiving. This product, which is the most natural of all the supermarket eggnogs, still contains a bunch of emulsifiers. It was also clumped well before its expiry date. In this case, the product had not spoiled, but it was weird and not drinkable. Interestingly, all supplies of this have disappeared from Loblaws' shelves just when they are usually arriving en masse for the holiday season.

              2. we typically drink the PC brand and I find if it is not finished in the first week it goes off... I found that it is also much more sensitive to warm temperatures - it curdles within 2 hours of being left on the table (i am slow drinker...) so maybe it's just an organic milk thing or potentially an issue with handling during transport or at the store and it is more acute with organic milk versus the regular stuff....

                1. Hi peppermint pate - We have had the same experience in our house with Organic Meadow. I am that annoying person who goes to the back of the cooler to get the latest expiry date, but still, with the Organic Meadow, we found our milk going "off" (smelly, separated) way, way before the date. I don't buy it anymore. I've had better luck with Harmony, which (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) I believe is actually made by Hewitt's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foodiemommy

                    Hewitt's states that they process organic milk and cream products for Harmony. Harmony's own website pointedly avoids revealing anything whatsoever about who they are, where they are located, where the farms at which their cows supposedly live exquisite lives (I hope that they, indeed, do) are located, or who processes any of their various products. This kind of anonymity bugs me.

                    BTW, the following is taken from the Hewitt's website FAQ page:

                    "Why do fluid milk products not last until the "best before" date?

                    Temperature control is important. The temperature in most home refrigerators is 4.4 c or 40 F and your milk should keep 10 days. If the temperature is 45 F 7.5 c it will last 5 days. If the temperature is 50 F (10c) it will only last 2 days!

                    It's a bad idea to set a carton or bag of milk on your table during your meal, and then return it to the fridge. Try to purchase your milk from display cases that are not open to the air, but rather are in enclosed counters."

                    I have not found Hewitt's branded products to be anywhere this temperamental, though their creams do, indeed, spoil within days of their best before date (our fridge is 34 F) while UHT cream products can last for literally months after that date (sometimes even when opened).

                  2. I'd like to pick up on the last part of the question.
                    What is 'organic milk' anyway?
                    Doesn't ALL milk have to be sold through the Milk Marketing process, where it's all blended together (Michael Schmidt notwithstanding)?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: estufarian

                      That's my understanding also. It might be one reason why both Harmony and Organic Meadow reveal little about themselves or their milk. Presumably there's no way in which they can actually differentiate milk from their "own" cows/farms from milk obtained elsewhere. If anyone out there has personal experience with this regulatory process, I hope you will post.

                      It reminds me of Bullfrog Power. When I asked how I could be assured that the power to my home came from their own "green" production sources, they hemmed and hawed before admitting that the "green power", for which I would be paying a premium, is (as is, of course, obvious) actually the same ordinary power delivered by Toronto Hydro to everyone in the city.

                      I'm really annoyed by Organic Meadow's contention that UHT processing "in no way affects the quality or nutritional value of the milk". My taste buds, and my observation of the physical properties of UHT creams, tell me otherwise.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Well, the story with the DFO is that yes, all milk does have to go through the Milk Marketing process, but that organic milk is processed separately. So, to crudely explain it, on the days that the o-ganic pool is scheduled, the milk that is picked up from the fifteen Harmony farms (between Kitchener, Owen Sound, and Chatham) and the 100+(?) Organic Meadow farms gets processed on its own, so it's actually pooled apart from all the rest.

                        Both antibiotics and growth hormones are banned from regular milk in Canada anyway, so I think it's more of whether you're concerned about things like fertilizers, pesticides/herbicides, organic feed, and pasture regulations. The o designation isn't taken lightly taken though; it can take years before a conventional farm makes the proper transition to being certified organic. Still, the steps taken to ensure cleanliness and quality in ALL fluid milk are highly rigourous, so...

                        For the residue issue, I've noticed it in the bottles for the Harmony non-homogenised. Since the cream separates and rises, some of it ends up sticking to the sides.

                        embee - there is a useful site covering milk and Dairy Science Technology from the University of Guelph.

                        http://www.foodsci.uoguelph.ca/dairye...

                        On the subject of UHT, they would agree with you. This is their comment on the Keeping Quality of UHT:
                        "Heat stable lipases or proteases can lead to flavour deterioration, age gelation of the milk over time - nothing lasts forever! There is also a more pronounced cooked flavour to UHT milk."

                        note: 'age gelation is an aggregation phenomenon that affects shelf-stable, sterilized dairy products, such as concentrated milk and UHT milk products. After weeks to months storage of these products, there is a sudden sharp increase in viscosity accompanied by visible gelation and irreversible aggregation of the micelles into long chains forming a three-dimensional network.'

                      2. Ditto the issues with Organic Meadow - although I only buy skim or 1%. I've often found it going bad way way way before the scheduled date and I too always consciously pick the very latest day I can find when I purchase. I have also started buying PC or Harmony organic brands instead, although finding either of those two is much less convenient for me.

                        Thanks for posting on this issue - prior to reading these posts, I had assumed it was a storage issue with my local grocery store (the Metro/Dominion at Yonge and Eg) but now it seems like it might be a processing issue.

                        1. We buy Organic Meadow 3.8% in bags, and use about 1 bag per week since it's only used to make cappuccino. On occasion, we open the last bag even after the expiry date (because sometimes the expiry date is 5 to 7 days after the purchase date) and I think we'll had some bad milk only once this year.

                          Perhaps the mik is being stored at the incorrect temperature in transit, or at the store. It may be worth checking the temperature in your refrigerator on the shelf you store the milk also, as it varies throughout. We keep the milk in the meat drawer, which is the coldest place. It's around 2C in ours. By keeping it there, it's not subject to the wide swings caused by opening the door many times during the day.

                          1. I appreciate everyone's responses - thank you. Yesterday, the kids had an afternoon of bad tummies again so I'm pretty sure it isn't fat separation. This was on bagged milk with a November 14th expiry date. I returned the milk to the store and replaced it (for free) with 2 large cartons of non-organic homo milk. I will call Organic Meadow this week to follow up and let you know what they say.

                            I guess I'll try the Harmony bags (realistically, I need bags or cartons as I go through 8 litres a week). In terms of storage, I always pick up the milk from the grocer's storage fridge, which is extra cold, and then I take it home, and into the meat drawer, directly. Given that I go through more than 1 litre a day, an open bag isn't sitting around very long and we never keep the milk on the table/counter. I'll check the temperature in my fridge - perhaps it can be cooler.

                            With all that said, I've been buying this milk for several months now and have only had 2 problems, albeit both times within the last month (though I guess I had it every now and again with 1% milk cartons as well).

                            1. In addition to all the factors mentioned above, I suspect that the handling of the milk by the groceries could have something to do with it. In many stores the organic dairy is separate from the main dairy section; there is less of it, and the turnover is slower because fewer people buy it. It's possible that the milk is handled at some point by staff who are not used to dealing with dairy. Perhaps the odd skid gets left sitting somewhere warm longer than it should.

                              Once, out of convenience, I picked up a carton of Organic Meadows milk at Shopper's Drug Mart and when I opened it, it was so sour I had to dump it immediately -- I didn't even want to keep it around to return it. I assumed that was just a result of putting dairy products in the hands of staff used to stocking tampons and soap. I had ongoing problems with the same product at the Market Square Dominion (now Metro) as well, where the organics were across the store from the main dairy until their recent reno. Since the Front St. Sobey's opened, however, where the organic milk is integrated with the mainstream dairy products, I've had no problems whatsoever.

                              1. In the past I have bought Harmony organic homo milk in a glass bottle and it had gone bad sometimes even before I opened it. It has always happened in the Ambrosia grocery store where I picked it up, I just assumed it was a storage issue on the grocer's part and stopped buying it from them.
                                Recently I have switched to Costco for their organic homo 4L bags and so far it has not been a problem even though it takes me up to 2wks to finish. And it is a lot cheaper as well!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Royaljelly

                                  Which Costco do you buy organic milk from? (I realize this post is from a few months ago.) I haven't seen it in the Woodbine/Steeles or Warden/Ellesmere locations, but would go to another location for organic milk (I too have toddler twins, plus a younger toddler, so we go through a lot of milk!).

                                2. I have had problems with bagged milk - both organic and non-organic - with it going bad before the expiry date. I now buy Harmony in the bottles and have had no problems with it. The only downside is that 4 litres in bottles is significantly more expensive than 4 litres in bags.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Deborah B

                                    Does anyone have an approx. price for Harmony 4-litre bag price? The Organic Meadow equivalent is $9.99 at Loblaws. I believe the PC brand is usually about a buck less. Thanks.

                                  2. We rarely purchase cow milk due to the lactose, we drink goat’s milk. If and when I make custard or ice cream I of course use heavy cream. I like Hewitt’s 32% cream because it has not been through the UHT process. Despite our use of goat’s milk, we too have issue’s with the shelve life of our goat’s milk.

                                    We purchase Liberte or Hewitt's goat’s milk. In the past we have purchased the 4 liter bag of milk from Hewitt. But there is only two of us; the last bag would always go bad. And it would always go bad a few days or more before the due date. The 1 liter cartons will also go bad before the due date. I believe that the main culprit is the larger stores and how they treat their labour force. Or maybe lack of treatment.

                                    I know 100% that are fridge is cold enough. Besides the thermometer in the fridge (everyone has one right?), our water in the Brita always has a thin layer of ice in it. What I do know is that where we do our dry goods and dairy shopping the fellows who stock the shelves are not the best at their job. Even though at Loblaws the goat milk is in a separate area from the cow’s milk, I’ve seen the same issues with the people who stack the shelves.

                                    We buy at least 2 tubs of frozen wild blueberries per week. There are supposed to be I.Q.F., which means they should not be one solid frozen mass. The IQF blueberries are always one frozen mass. I’ve seen in the frozen food section, bags of I.Q.F. shrimps frozen solid into one block of shrimps. So I would assume that the organic dairy products also sit out for some time before they make it into a cold area. As Embbe has point out, this time spent away from the cold takes it toll on the shelve life of any dairy product.

                                    Add to this the time it takes to purchase your groceries and then go straight home, we all go straight home with our perishable groceries? Leave the fridge door open to put away our groceries, which means the temp drops inside the fridge (what am I doing setting up a HACCP routine). This all takes its toll on the shelve life of any perishable goods.

                                    In the past we have purchased goats milk from a little health food store on Bloor near Royal York and never had any issue with the goat milk, other than the cost. Of course they also sell organic cow’s milk.

                                    I can remember working in little place on Spadina Ave that sold Hewitt’s in a bottle. I don’t remember there being any issue’s with the milk going bad before the due date. It’s been some time and I really had little to do with the dairy section other than for my own needs so I could be wrong.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Pastryrocks

                                      There is something definitely off about Organic Meadow homo milk. I make my own kefir at home and had previously been using your regular store brands. Whenever I opened the cupboard to check on the kefir 12 to 18 hours later, there would always be the distinctive kefir smell that greeted me as the door swung open. When I tried to make kefir from Organic Meadow milk, that lovely kefir smell was nowhere to be found, which immediately put me on guard. The taste was a bit off too. Not spoilt, just different enough that it put me off OM and back to the regular brands again.

                                      We truly are in a sorry state of affairs in Canada, where this lack of choice to go genuinely organic in milk is forced on us by mass produced, mass blended, homogenised milk being made our only 'legal' choice. Boo!

                                    2. i'm sorry to revive an old thread but i'm struggling with the same problem right now.

                                      i usually shop @ loblaws or longos and organic meadow and/or PC organics are the only options i have for homo milk. hubby and i drink skim or 1% and find we have the same problem UNLESS we buy the organic filtered stuff from lactancia (which is not available in homo, sadly).

                                      at ~$10 per bag, it's a pricey habit to dump 1/3 of the product down the sink because it's gone bad before the best before date.

                                      wondering if other are having a similar experience. and what other options are out there for organic homo milk?

                                      sadly, harmony is not available at any of the stores i frequent.

                                      thanks.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: lilaki

                                        The current wacky weather is affecting the product. How long does the milk (and other products) are in transit. How is the controlled temperature monitored?
                                        The producers do their best to preserve the product quality. The middlemen (transportation) care not. The retails lose money if they don't take care of the products.

                                        Please notify the stores where you bought the milk from of this situation. Hopefully they will address the situation with the transport companies. I found Longo's is receptive to complaint about spoiled food and gave me refunds with no questions.

                                        1. re: knusprig

                                          do you bring the milk back? or do you just bring your receipt? i tend to throw away both ... but will hang onto my receipt if it's that straightforward.

                                          1. re: lilaki

                                            I brought the spoiled item (food) back with the receipt. My thought perhaps they may want to investigate the item itself, the package or whatever.

                                            Even if you no longer have the milk, a letter to the store about your experiences would make them aware.