How Long Does Raw Milk Last

Raw milk, also known as fresh milk or unpasteurized milk, is milk that has not undergone the process of pasteurization, which involves heating milk to kill off harmful bacteria. Raw milk is prized by some as a nutritious and flavorful food, but it can also be a source of bacterial contamination,so, how long does raw milk last?

Properties of Raw Milk

Raw milk contains a wide range of nutrients, including vitamins A, D, and B12, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It is also a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Raw milk has a unique flavor and can be used for making a variety of dairy products such as cheese, butter, and yogurt.

However, raw milk also contains bacteria that can be harmful to humans, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

How Long Does Raw Milk Last

Factors Affecting Shelf Life

The shelf life of raw milk depends on a variety of factors, including the temperature at which it is stored, exposure to air, and bacterial growth. When raw milk is left at room temperature, bacteria can grow rapidly, leading to spoilage and potential illness.

On the other hand, if raw milk is stored at too cold of a temperature, it can freeze and impact the composition and flavor of the milk.

The shelf life of raw milk in a refrigerator depends on various factors, such as temperature, storage conditions, and type of milk. The general recommendation is that raw milk should be consumed within 5-7 days of purchase or production.

Temperature is the most important factor in extending the shelf life of raw milk. The ideal temperature for storing raw milk is between 35°F to 40°F (1.6°C to 4.4°C). At this temperature range, the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can spoil the milk is slowed down.

Therefore, it is crucial to keep the raw milk refrigerated as soon as possible after purchase or production. Leaving raw milk at room temperature can cause harmful bacterial growth, leading to spoilage or even illness.

The storage conditions of raw milk also play a significant role in its longevity. The milk container should be tightly sealed, and the refrigeration unit should be free of contamination. Proper cleaning of the container before and after use can prevent the formation of bacteria in the milk. A clean, sanitized container is needed to store raw milk safely.

The type of raw milk also influences its shelf life. Certain factors, such as the quality of raw milk, the age of the cow, and the milking hygiene, can affect how long the raw milk will last. Milk from older cows may have shorter shelf life than milk from younger cows, while milk produced under unhygienic conditions may spoil rapidly. Additionally, the milk fat percentage and creaminess can affect the shelf life.

To extend the shelf life of raw milk, here are some tips:

1. Store raw milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator, away from other food items.
2. Keep the raw milk in airtight containers to prevent air entry and contamination.
3. Don’t shake the container too much, as it can affect the milk’s quality.
4. Consume the raw milk as soon as possible, preferably within 5-7 days of purchase or production.

Consuming expired raw milk can result in severe health consequences. Raw milk contains bacteria and pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria. If you’re not sure about the quality of raw milk, it’s best to avoid it entirely.

For those who don’t have access to fresh raw milk, there are alternative options such as pasteurized milk, which is heated to kill bacteria and microorganisms that can cause illness. Pasteurized milk has a longer shelf life and is often the safer choice for consumption.

Additionally, there are plant-based alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk that are dairy-free and offer great taste and nutritional value.

How Long Does Raw Milk Last

Ways to Extend Freshness of Raw Milk

To extend the lifespan of raw milk, it is essential to keep it as cold as possible. Storing raw milk at a temperature below 40°F (4°C) can prevent bacteria from multiplying and extending its shelf life. It is also important to handle raw milk with clean hands and equipment to minimize the risk of contamination.

How to Properly Store Raw Milk

When storing raw milk, it is best to keep it in its original container and avoid transferring it to other containers. Glass jars or jugs are the best options because they are non-reactive and do not impact the taste of the milk.

Raw milk should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator and away from foods with a strong odor, such as onions or garlic.

How Long Does Raw Milk Last

Common Signs of Spoilage in Raw Milk

Raw milk that has gone bad will have a sour or off smell, and it will often have a thick or clumpy texture. The milk may also have a yellowish tinge or a skin or film on the surface. If raw milk appears or smells suspicious, it is best to err on the side of caution and dispose of it.

Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk: Nutritional and Safety Differences

Raw milk and pasteurized milk are quite different in terms of nutrition and safety. While raw milk contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurization, it also carries a higher risk of bacterial contamination.

Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, has a much longer shelf life and is significantly less likely to cause illness.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Consuming Raw Milk

Raw milk is a controversial food, with strong opinions on both sides. Those who advocate for raw milk point to its natural flavor and nutritional benefits, while those who advise against it cite the risk of bacterial contamination and potential health hazards.

It is important to make an informed decision about whether to consume raw milk based on individual health considerations and risk tolerance.

Making Yogurt with Raw Milk

Raw milk can be used to make yogurt, which offers the benefits of preserving the healthy bacteria and enzymes found in raw milk. To make yogurt with raw milk, heat the milk to 180°F (82°C) and hold it at that temperature for 30 minutes.

Then cool the milk to between 100°F and 110°F (38°C and 43°C) before adding a yogurt starter culture. Allow the mixture to incubate for 4-6 hours, or until it thickens to the desired consistency.

How Long Does Raw Milk Last

In conclusion

Raw milk is a nutritious and flavorful food, but it requires special handling and storage to prevent bacterial contamination and spoilage. By understanding the shelf life of raw milk and the factors that affect it, consumers can make informed decisions about how to handle and consume this unique food.


1. How long does raw milk last in the refrigerator?
Raw milk typically lasts for about 5-7 days when stored at a temperature between 33-40°F (1-4°C). However, the exact shelf life may vary depending on factors such as the quality of the milk, the handling and storage conditions, and the bacterial load.

2. How should raw milk be stored to maximize its shelf life?
Raw milk should be kept in a clean, airtight container and refrigerated immediately after milking or purchase. It should not be exposed to sunlight or heat as these can promote bacterial growth and spoilage. Additionally, raw milk should be kept separate from other food items in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination.

3. Can raw milk be frozen to extend its shelf life?
Yes, raw milk can be frozen for up to 6 months to prolong its shelf life. However, it is important to note that freezing may cause changes in the texture and taste of the milk. Therefore, it is recommended to thaw frozen raw milk slowly in the refrigerator and consume it within a few days of thawing.

4. How can I tell if raw milk has gone bad?
Spoiled raw milk can have a sour, off-taste and a pungent odor. Other signs of spoilage may include clumps, curdled appearance, or unusual color or texture. If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the milk immediately as consuming spoiled milk can be harmful to health.

5. Is it safe to drink raw milk after its expiration date?
No, raw milk should not be consumed after its expiration date as it may contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. It is important to always check the expiration date and consume raw milk within the recommended timeframe.

6. Can I use raw milk pasteurization as a way to extend its shelf life?
No, raw milk pasteurization is not a solution for extending the shelf life of raw milk as it changes the flavor and nutritional properties of the milk. Additionally, pasteurization does not eliminate all harmful bacteria and may give a false sense of safety.

The best way to ensure the safety and freshness of raw milk is by following proper storage and handling practices.


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