Why Is Milk Packed In A Carton And Not A Glass Bottle?

Milk cartons have been around for more than 100 years and have become a mainstay of American culture. Whether you enjoy milk in your cereal, add it to coffee, or serve it with cookies for Santa, not many people think about the way fresh milk is packaged. You wouldn’t keep fine wine in a carton, so why is fresh milk packed in cartons and not in glass bottles?


Milk is packed in cartons because they are lightweight, sturdy, and convenient. They are an effective way to transport milk directly from farms, whereas bottles are heavy and fragile. Cartons keep the milk fresh for longer by blocking out light and air, which can degrade Vitamin A, D, and riboflavin.

milk carton
milk carton

Everyone agrees that milk needs to be fresh to taste good, but if glass bottles do the same job, why are we sticking to plastic-lined cartons when they are not the best choice for the environment? Let’s find out why milk is usually packed in cartons and whether storing it this way affects the taste of fresh milk.


Why Is Milk Packed In Cartons?

Americans have embraced the convenience of milk cartons. The familiar gable-topped cartons that first appeared in 1906 simplified every step of the process, from the dairy farm to decanting the nutritious liquid at home.


The development of modern refrigerators and milk cartons took place side by side. So on top of not having to package milk in heavy, fragile glass bottles and deliver it to households daily, lightweight, disposable cartons could stay fresh longer inside refrigerator doors.


Although the love affair with cartons took a few decades to catch on, once daily visits from the milkman were no longer required, single-use packaging quickly became a hit. Packaging milk in cartons just made sense to producers, merchants, and consumers since it was:

  • Hygienic
  • Opaque cartons made spoilage from light was less rapid
  • Cartons could be sealed and remain fresh for much longer than milk stored in glass bottles
  • Milk cartons are lightweight
  • They are strong and can be stacked tightly during transportation
  • Breakage is less likely and less catastrophic than when using fragile glass bottles


In addition to all the practical reasons, packaging milk inside opaque containers is the best way to prevent the rapid degradation of vitamins A, D, and riboflavin. While milk quality is still affected by light, even behind the shielded walls of the carton, clear glass and plastic bottles are more likely to be affected.


When it comes to preserving the taste of milk and environmental awareness, gable-style milk cartons are no match for glass bottles. However, consumers love the convenience of purchasing their milk in cartons, and changing the mindset of most consumers may be a case of old habits dying hard.


What Is The Recommended Way To Package Milk?

milk box
milk box

For anyone born and raised in the United States, it can be surprising to learn that milk cartons are less common in other parts of the world. Many other countries sell milk in thin bags. Although popping the entire bag into a special jug and snipping off a corner to pour may seem like an extra step, it significantly reduces waste.


The best way to package milk should suit when you use the product, your expectations regarding taste, and how far the product has to travel before it gets to you. Milk cartons are a convenient way to transport milk over long distances, but it is not the best method to store it.


A study by Cornell University showed that even the grocery store’s LED lights adversely affect the milk taste. Even though the milk inside appears to be shielded from direct light, light energy from outside permeates the material and negatively affects the taste.


There is no doubt that milk stored in glass bottles tastes better, so if it’s fresh, creamy sweet milk taste you’re after, glass bottles are the way to go. According to ABC News, milk transferred to milk bottles and refrigerated stays much colder and will last twice as long as if it remains in cartons.

milk box
milk box

Milk Cartons Vs. Glass Bottles

There is a growing trend among consumers for fresh, organic goods. A sort of quality-over-quantity mindset that is changing the way many of us buy, store, and appreciate food. Farmers’ markets and organically grown produce have become popular, and along with this is a growing appreciation for the flavor of fresh milk.


While in the past, storing milk was more about keeping it fresh for as long as possible without it turning sour, taste and environmental awareness are becoming increasingly important. Things in the dairy industry are changing, and in many parts of the United States, fresh milk delivered in glass bottles is making a solid comeback.


Let’s take a side-by-side look at the advantages and disadvantages of storage methods to decide the best way to store milk. Both have pros and cons, but as you can see from the list below, the advantages of glass bottles to store fresh milk outweigh milk cartons.


Milk Cartons Glass Bottles
Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages
Lightweight Can absorb a plastic taste Reusable Heavy
Cheaper Environmentally unfriendly Milk stored in glass bottles tastes better Fragile
Aseptic-sealed milk can stay fresh for up to 90 days You can’t judge the level of remaining milk at a glance Earth friendly packaging More difficult to transport long distances
Convenient to open, store and pour Once it is open, it cannot be tightly resealed Stays colder longer Ultraviolet light breaks down Vit A, D, and riboflavin
Disposable, so when the contents are finished, the carton can be disposed of and replaced More likely to be locally produced, fresh farm milk Glass milk bottles may need to be returned for a deposit.
Caps fit tightly on glass bottles.


Are Plastic Milk Bottles Safe?

Plastic milk jugs are safe for storing milk as the FDA strictly regulates the packaging. While this may sound reassuring, it is not to say that milk will retain its fresh, mild taste as effectively as when it is stored in glass bottles.Regarding kitchen diet, you can also read my other article


The main component in plastic milk bottles is usually high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Although plastic milk bottles are marked and labeled as recyclable, the truth is that they are never melted down to make new bottles. They can, however, be made into other plastic items like toys, clothespegs, or plastic pens, but more than 60% of used plastic milk bottles end up in landfills.



Milk cartons are by far the most popular method of storing milk in the United States. It offers producers and consumers a convenient, lightweight, hygienic way to keep milk from spoiling. Cartons can impact the taste of milk. Glass bottles are the recommended method to store milk if fresh taste and environmental impact are a priority.

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