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Stocking up on milk as preparation for hyperinflation

Posted by John Reed on

Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

One of the simplest solutions I urged in my book How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation & Depression, 2nd Edition is to buy everything you will ever need now.

Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but it is the best and most memorable way to state the principle.

Obviously, you will be glad you bought everything before the prices went up during hyperinflation.

Can’t get it at any price

Unobviously, if you read the history of past periods of hyperinflation as I have, you learn that hyperinflation is not just about prices. It is also about availability.

In her hyperinflation-in-Austria diary, Anna Eisenmenger relates a continuing ordeal to get milk. Her extended family had a pre-school age grandson and an infant granddaughter.

Goat, canned, powdered

They sometimes got goat milk, but the baby threw it up. The mother of the baby, Anna’s daughter, could not produce mother’s milk because she was malnourished because of the difficulty of getting food for anyone during hyperinflation.

Why? The farmers simply have no incentive to produce and ship fresh food for the cities. City folk only have worthless paper currency to offer in return for the produce, meat, and dairy products. No thanks, said the farmers. Anna’s daughter Liesbeth later died from a combination of malnutrition and inability to stay warm. The infant, Liesl, survived but was abnormally not thriving or growing during the period.

Foreign countries, mainly America, sometimes gave Anna’s family canned milk. Again, neither the infant nor the other members of the family could stomach it in spite of being hungry.

They also sometimes got powdered milk. They did not like that either. Nor do I especially. I tried some of it in preparation for a Grand Canyon hike. It was Backpacker’s Pantry brand. It did not dissolve into the water. I was more like suspended in it and I did not like the taste.

Two readers told me powdered milk tastes great, if you make it the night before, mix it extremely thoroughly with a whisk, and leave it in the fridge overnight or out in the cold if you are camping.

When you’re hungry, you won’t be picky

A lot of people say, “Don’t worry. You’ll like it when you’re hungry.”

Apparently not. Anna Eisenmenger and her family did not like the canned, powdered, or goat milk. And they were darned sure hungry. Their baby threw it up.

We were deliberately starved when we went through Army ranger school. We got one C-ration a day. There were 12 varieties. I, and most people hated one called ham and lima beans. Even though I was starving, when I drew ham and lima beans once, I went looking for another guy who liked it to trade. Would I have eaten it? Probably. We even ate the non-dairy creamer and sugar packet. But hungry or not, I still did not like ham and lima beans. So do not be too quick to overestimate your ability to eat food you don’t like for a year or two during hyperinflation. As much as possible, you should try to replicate your normal diet.

I drink a lot of milk. I buy it by the gallon and use all of it before it spoils. I would be a really unhappy camper if I suddenly had to go without milk for a year or two. And milk sold in U.S. supermarkets only lasts about ten days in your refrigerator.

Irradiated milk

I recall reading about irradiated milk decades ago. It would keep for a very long time, then had to be refrigerated after you first opened it. But now I can’t find it even on the Internet. I may be using the wrong phrase.

Kooks are scared of radiation and may have driven it off the market. If it still exists, it probably has some cutesy name more suited to marketing than “nuclear milk.” The Wikipedia article on it says they are required to use the cutesy word “Radura” and its official logo to describe it. The Wikipedi article seems to say that irradiation is only allowed for some limited purposes relating to killing insects and such in the U.S. and Europe. If anyone knows how to get irradiated milk, I would appreciate hearing about it.

(I believe irradiated food is passed by a source of radioactive cobalt on a conveyor belt. The radiation does not make the food radioactive or dangerous. It just kills all the bacteria, which is what makes milk go sour.)

UHT milk

Fortunately, there is another way to extend the shelf life of milk that does not trigger so many kook protests. It is ultra high temperature pasteurization (UHT). It lasts three to nine months without any refrigeration. After you open it, you have to refrigerate it and then you get another ten days or so like regular milk.

If you want to research it, you need to know all the words and phrases used to describe it. And clearly there is not a consensus name for it which makes knowing all the various names crucial for research. Here are the ones I have found so far:

• aseptic milk

• shelf stable milk

• UHT milk

• Parmalat (brand name)

• back-up milk

• Tetra Pak (brand name of how it is packaged)

8-ounce cartons

I have only found it in 8-ounce cartons—apparently for box lunches. I bought an 18-pack and had to pay $18.99 for it at my local Safeway. Amazon wants $21.00 for the same thing plus shipping!

Stupidly, it was refrigerated in the store in the milk section and not refrigerated in the powdered and other drinks aisle! I expect one of the reasons I had to pay so much was it was treated as a refrigerated beverage—like having to pay more for a cold bottle of Coke than a room-temperature one. I brought it home and stuck it in the pantry

The brand is Horizon Organic. Organic is probably another reason it is expensive. Organic has no meaning other than expensive. But it is favored by the same mindless, airhead kooks who rejection irradiation out of profound ignorance.

So I am on a quest to find un-organic, un-refrigerated UHT milk that is as cheap as it ought to be.

Refrigeration of unpened milk is stupid

Why would anyone want refrigerated milk? Beats the hell out of me. The Horizon stuff tastes great. In many countries, over 90% of all milk sold is UHT and goes onto the pantry shelf until it is opened. There is a list of the European countries’ percentage use of UHT milk at the UHT Wikipedia article.

So why do Americans or anyone else use milk that has to be refrigerated at the dairy then shipped expensively in refrigerated trucks to refrigerated shelves in grocery stores then rushed home before it spoils? Because they are stupid.

I surmise some said regular milk tastes better than UHT. No, it doesn’t. Hey, the same air heads who hate modernity are typically also Francophiles. Zis iz ze milk du France, mes dames et monsieurs. 95.5% of the milk consumed in France is UHT. 50 million French snobs could not possibly be wrong. You drink wine like ze French. So drink milk the way they do aussi.

But when people are used to A they will grab onto any excuse not to switch to B, even when they have to pay more. U.K. tried to decree more use of UHT milk to save energy. UHT white milk is green! What’s not to like here? But the U.K. milk industry and kook consumers made them back off. Dopey.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. Get someone to give you a blind taste test where both types are nicely chilled but in separate, unmarked glasses. Better yet, serve it to people, preferably kids, without even telling them it is different. See if they:

A. detect any difference at all

B. maybe prefer the UHT type. I maybe can’t tell the difference, but maybe UHT tastes a little better. It’s too subtle for me to claim I could pass a blind taste test.

For everyday use, too

So not only do I want to buy UHT milk for hyperinflation storage purposes, I want it for everyday use because it makes more sense by a mile than refrigerated milk. This is called a rotation system where you simply buy a supply equal to the expiration date and use the oldest every day. When you go to the store, you replace the amount you used to restore your til-expiration date quantity. In poorer countries in Latin America and elsewhere, they use it because they cannot afford to be stupid. In many of those countries, you cannot get American style refrigerated milk.

McDonalds uses UHT milk for its McFlurries.

Borden is another company that makes UHT milk.

I have found a fair amount of chocolate UHT milk in regular supermarkets. White UHT milk is a little harder to find.

Absurdly expensive

I cannot find this stuff—1% or 2% fat UHT cow’s milk—for less than about $1 per 8-ounce (half of a pint) container. Even when I found it in 32-ounce cartons, they still wanted about $1 for each 8 ounces. A gallon of regular milk at my local store costs $3.75. I would rather buy UHT milk in 32-ounce containers than 8-ounce. It ought to be cheaper in larger containers.

Can anyone tell me where to buy this stuff for a price closer to the price of regular milk? One suggestion I have yet to try is our local Mexican bodegas. That was where we first found Mexican Coca Cola which has cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Now we get that at Costco.

Some readers referred me to powdered milk. That would be cheaper and in the case of the Mormon dry-pack variety, lasts 20 years. I also bought some Carnation and Safeway dry milk which last nine and 20 months respectively. I have not taste tested them yet. Readers said the trick with non-fat dry milk, which my wife grew up drinking in underveloped countries, is to mix it with water extremely thoroughly at least a day before and refrigerate it before you drink it. I tried that and can pronounce Mormon #10-can non-fat dry milk close enough for government work. If I did not know what it was, I might not detect the difference. Pretty close. But the key is the thorough mixing. I did not use, but might in the future, use a blender or electric egg beaters. I just used a wisk and shook it a lot. So I'm going to go buy, store, and forget about a dozen or so cans of the Mormon stuff.

Here is a mention I found at one web site:

We've talked a bit about Gossner, shelf stable milk. I can not find it around here, but I did find it on line at Dollar Tree. Keep in mind that they sell it, and it can be shipped to your local store if they don't stock it and the base price is $1 for a quart ($4.95 to get an order shipped to the store and you buy by the case). I contacted Gossner and here is the letter I got back:
Thank you for your interest in Gossner Foods, Inc. & our dairy products. Our milk can be found in the following stores under these labels:
Dollar Tree – Gossner & Hershey labels. Here is a link to their store locator website where you can get an exact address.
Stop N Shop - Food Hold Labels
Giant – Food Hold labels
Kroger – Hershey label Borden label – Gossner label
We also sell product direct. We accept visa or mastercard. For more information please call 800-944-0454 and ask for the store. Please let me know if you have further questions.

Read more:

This says $1.00 a quart, which would be about one quarter of the prices I have seen. But I wonder if the writer can tell a quart from a pint. The campingsurvial link shows Gossner 32-ounce cartons for sale for $49.83 for a case of 12 cartons. 12 x 32 = 384 ounces. A quart is 32 ounces so for $49.83 you get 12 quarts. If a quart was $1.00, 12 of them would only cost $12, not $49.83. So no matter what the carton size, you pay more than $1.00 a half-pint (8 ounces).

This milk ought to be cheaper than the regular refrigerator milk because of the lack of the need to ship it or store it in refrigerated trucks or store cabinets. The normal pasteurization temperature is 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 seconds. UHT gets pasteurized at 280 degrees Fahrenheit for one to three seconds. Does UHT cost more to pasteurize? Probably, but it’s a shorter time span. Does UHT cost more to package? Probably. But double when it requires no refrigeration!? If it is more expensive to manufacture and sell, why is it so widely used in poor countries?

I think we in America are being screwed on the price for no good reason other than the companies in question can get away with it. If they would lower the price and advertise it, they might make more money from UHT here as they do in Latin America and France and elsewhere. The kooks won’t buy it, but we’re not all kooks.

I wondered if the military had figured this out—particularly for submarine crews. No. I saw a documentary on TV where they said they only had milk and fresh produce for the first couple of weeks of a six-month cruise. Thereafter, they had to eat canned produce and powdered milk. Well, they could get months out of UHT milk, but I guess they don’t want to devote the space to it. They do seem to make good use of freezers and refrigerators which can enable fish, meat, and chicken to last a long time.

My local Mexican bodegas had no idea what I was talking about when I inquired about UHT milk. Nor did our one Dollar Tree store have it (That’s a strange operation.)

Here is an email I got:

Dear Mr. Reed,
Thank you for your discussion on UHT milk. I now understand what it is.
Saw it in Canada in 1980. Was told, "not everybody has refrigeration."
I had no idea that it was expensive or hard to get! Perhaps my local experience may be useful.

Gossner milk is indeed $1 per quart at the Dollar Tree stores in Fresno, but not always in stock.
(Some Dollar Tree stores are very small and have limited stock.)
It is indeed in "1 Quart 32 fl oz 946 mL" Tetra Pak containers.
They usually have the "2% Reduced Fat", and also the standard fat content milk.
Sometimes it is inside cold storage next to the ordinary milk. Sometimes not.
Ironically, I recall that Dollar Tree charges a dollar for a 3 cup container of fresh milk.

Check the "Best Used By" date. I have seem some for sale with expired dates.
It is likely that the discount stores buy milk nearing the end of shelf life.
I bought 3 quarts a few months ago. The pull date reads 06 May 2013. Good enough.

I do not think fresh milk and Gossner milk taste the same. But I will do a blind taste test, equally chilled.
In any case, the UHT milk has saved me from a run to the grocery store just to get milk!

Another local store also may have the Gossner UHT milk occasionally. I have seen it at the "99 Cent Store".
For those who prefer soy milk, plain soy milk 32 fl oz is always available at the Dollar Tree in Tetra Pak.

Thank you for the story about England and the energy saving potential of UHT milk, in terms of refrigeration cost, and the need for daily delivery of fresh milk.
I have seen prepackaged diet meals and food from India in UHT containers. Heats much faster than frozen foods, so there is energy savings in cooking, as well.

Thanks again,
John Rodman
Clovis California

In January 2013, I said Horizon had jacked their prices from $17.99 for 18 8-ounce tetrapak boxes of UHT milk to $15.99 for 12. And that I was done with them. Yesterday, 1/29/13, I bought two of the twelve-paks which had been reduced in price to $12.99. That is a slight price increase over 18 for $17.99, but not so bad as the $15.99. The ones I bought on 1/29/13 have a best by date of 6/30/13. I have found that they are still good at least three weeks after the best by date and counting. Five to seven months is what the Internet says about UHT milk. The basic idea is if you have to start living off your stored food, UHT milk will give you excellent tasting milk for at least six months. Then you would have to switch to powdered milk which is drinkable.

John T. Reed

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