Influence of raw milk quality on fluid milk shelf life

J Dairy Sci. 2006 Mar;89 Suppl 1:E15-9. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(06)72360-8.


Pasteurized fluid milk shelf life is influenced by raw milk quality. The microbial count and somatic cell count (SCC) determine the load of heat-resistant enzymes in milk. Generally, high levels of psychrotrophic bacteria in raw milk are required to contribute sufficient quantities of heat-stable proteases and lipases to cause breakdown of protein and fat after pasteurization. Sanitation, refrigeration, and the addition of CO2 to milk are used to control both total and psychrotrophic bacteria count. It is not uncommon for total bacterial counts of raw milk to be < 10,000 cfu/mL. In the past, fluid milk processors have not focused much attention on milk SCC. Increased SCC is correlated with increased amounts of heat-stable protease (plasmin) and lipase (lipoprotein lipase) in milk. When starting with raw milk that has a low bacterial count, and in the absence of microbial growth in pasteurized milk, enzymes associated with high SCC will cause protein and fat degradation during refrigerated storage, and produce off-flavors. As the ability to kill, remove, or control microbial growth in pasteurized refrigerated milk continues to improve, the original milk SCC will be the factor limiting the time of refrigerated storage before development of an off-flavor in milk. Most healthy cows in a dairy herd have a milk SCC < 50,000 cell/mL. Bulk tank SCC > 200,000 cell/mL are usually due to the contribution of high SCC milk from a small number of cows in the herd. Technology to identify these cows and keep their milk out of the bulk tank could substantially increase the value of the remaining milk for use in fluid milk processing. To achieve a 60- to 90-d shelf life of refrigerated fluid milk, fluid processors and dairy farmers need to work together to structure economic incentives that allow farmers to produce milk with the SCC needed for extended refrigerated shelf life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Count / veterinary
  • Colony Count, Microbial / veterinary
  • Dairying / standards
  • Female
  • Food Handling / standards*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Preservation*
  • Mastitis, Bovine / metabolism
  • Mastitis, Bovine / microbiology
  • Mastitis, Bovine / pathology
  • Milk / cytology
  • Milk / enzymology
  • Milk / microbiology*
  • Milk / standards*
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism
  • Quality Control
  • Spores, Bacterial / growth & development
  • Taste
  • Time Factors


  • Milk Proteins