If you’re going to gulp down three cups of milk a day, per the zealous new USDA guidelines, it had better be good. As a service to local lacto-lovers, we tasted a dozen brands of whole cow’s milk (not USDA-approved, but really, who could possibly stomach nearly a quart of skim every day?) and narrowed it down to the following six, in order of preference.
1. Patrick Farm
According to aficionados, this new organic, non-homogenized milk is the closest legal thing to raw; it’s coaxed from well-contented cows who spend their days doing nothing but nibbling grass and hay, which gives the milk a terrific funky, fatty flavor. Bonus points: Its pale-yellow color and great gob of cream on top trick clueless ofﬁce-fridge scofflaws into thinking it’s spoiled ($2.50 a quart at Union Square Greenmarket).
2. Evans’ Farmhouse
Organic, non-homogenized, and second only to Patrick in big, fatty flavor, with a rich, thickish texture. Tasting note: “So this is what milk is supposed to taste like” ($2.50 a quart at Marlow & Sons, 81 Broadway, at Berry St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-384-1441).
Old-fashioned cream-on-top milk that’s milder in flavor than both Patrick and Evans’ but comes in a gorgeous glass bottle and has a sweet, fresh finish. Tasting note: “You could serve this poured over strawberries” ($3 a quart, including $1 bottle deposit, at Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-741-6455).
4. Organic Valley
Chalk one up for the pasteurization police: Although serious milk mavens consider bacteria-thwarting and shelf-life-extending pasteurization a flavor killer, Organic Valley’s ultrapasteurized variety was surprisingly rich and creamy—except to one detractor, who said it tasted “cooked” ($1.44 a quart at Whole Foods).
5. Meadow Brook Farms
A good cream-on-top milk from upstate New York with a bright, clean flavor. Not as rich and tasty as Ronnybrook, but the paper cap is a lot easier to pry open ($2.29 a quart plus $1 bottle deposit at Food Emporium).
6. Farmland Dairies
Our panel deemed this the best and freshest of the plain old nonorganic supermarket milks, with a comparatively bland but inoffensive flavor ($1.15 a quart at D’Agostino’s).