Thursday, July 15, 2010


There's something that has confused and bothered me ever since I got here. I thought it odd that all the milk for sale in the grocery stores was sold unrefrigerated. You can store it that way for months, and once it's opened, it will keep in the fridge for weeks and weeks. I'm not sure how long it will stay "fresh" since I've yet to have one of those boxes go bad.

It doesn't go bad because it's ultra-pasteurized; the process is also called UHT, for ultra-high temperature.The milk we drink in the States is merely pasteurized and needs to be refrigerated. It will also go bad in a week or two even when keep cold. (Sometimes cream and half-and-half are ultra-pasteurized to make them last longer in the fridge.)

Personally, I'm suspicious of ultra-pasteurized milk. It tastes weird, and--Hello! Milk is supposed to go bad! It's milk. So when it doesn't need to be refrigerated, I'm thinking that it's not really milk anymore, if you know what I mean.

The thing that's really weird about this situation is that Belgium is full of dairy cows. You can't drive 10 kilometers in any direction without seeing some nice, contented cows standing around in a beautiful green pasture. There are cows right in Hasselt, within the city limits. I figured there must be a way to get real milk around here.

I picked up a map at the tourist information office that's labeled "Fairtradeplan" and shows the locations of various organic and fair trade businesses around town. It listed one place that sells "verse hoevemelk" not far from my boyfriend's work, and yesterday I went looking for it after dropping him off at the office.

Success! There, on a main street leading out of the city center, was a small dairy farm. I pulled into the driveway and parked between an open barn full of cows standing around in large pens with clean hay and a brick building full of what looked like modern milking equipment.

A man came out of the suburban house next door and, when I said I was looking for fresh milk, asked me if I'd brought a bottle. I hadn't, so he went back inside the house and got an empty plastic water bottle. Then we went into the brick building and he filled the bottle from a giant stainless-steel vat. It cost me 1 Euro for a liter and a half.

Now that I know how easy it is to get real milk, I'm never drinking UHT milk again! I have a friend here who says she usually goes to Holland to get fresh (normal, pasteurized) milk so I told her about the dairy farm. My Belgian boyfriend is suspicious, though. He thinks that if it can go bad, it can't be good.


  1. Hmm, being pregnant, it is good to know the milk is pasteurized here. It's probably because of some government regulation that our milk is pasteurised this way. We're used to it I guess, but I must agree the lower / unpasteurized milk has a lot more taste... Enjoy your fresh milk!

  2. Just tell Piet that the unpasteurized milk is the normal one. The only question is: " isn't cow milk supposed to be for small cows and not for human adults"

  3. This comment is likely two and a half years late, however fresh milk *can* be bought from most Delhaize and Carrefour supermarkets, hidden away in a tiny shelf next to some terrible "Karnemelk" (do *not* confuse this for mlk, it tastes like sadness).

    I made the mistake of drinking a glass of Karnemelk in my first year here in Belgium - which absolutely halted any desires to trial the other supermarket varieties for years - however now that I know Campina have an option - I've been drinking it almost weekly.

  4. I'm currently on holiday in Belgium and have just bought karnemelk. It does indeed taste like sadness. My breakfast was interesting to say the least.

    1. LOL! Did you know it was buttermilk? Or did you make the same mistake as the gentleman above?