Milk is different here.
- More expensive than the States
- You won’t find half n half or buttermilk and whipping cream is hard to find
- Non-refrigerated milk is everywhere
Like most Americans, I was very leery of Panama’s warm boxed milk.
(Scroll down for how milk is made to have a long shelf life.)
You can also easily buy refrigerated milk in Panama. But I found the taste was not consistent. Sometimes it would taste fine, and sometimes it was a little off. Not off as in going bad, just different.
I have learned to love the boxed milk. Now I prefer it. I really don’t like running out of milk for my coffee. In the States, I keep a few cans of evaporated milk as a back up. In Panama, a case of boxed milk.
Boxed milk means I don’t have to run to the store nearly as often.
Milk In Panama
The Chiriqui Province, where we live, annually produces over half of the Grade A & B milk in Panama. The Azuero region produces the rest, focusing more on Grade C milk.
Panama’s milk brands include Bonlac, Estrella Azul, Nevada and La Chiricana.
Dos Pinos is also sold in Panama, but it is a Costa Rican brand. Although I hear that Dos Pinos bought both the Nevada and La Chiricana milk companies.
Locals have come up to me in Romeros (supermarket) to let me know the best milk to buy is La Chiricana.
It is the most popular milk in Panama.
I do like the milk. It is what we usually buy. I haven’t tried it’s newer low-fat milk which is called, Fit.
The issue I have with La Chiricana is that it is impossible to pour milk from the carton without dripping. Frustrating. Which means I not only have to clean up the drips off the counter, but the carton always leaves a tiny milk puddle on my refrigerator shelf.
Life’s little trials.
If dripping cartons are unacceptable, try our 2nd favorite milk, Nevada. Nevada comes with a pour spout. No more drips!
We used to regularly buy Nevada milk, pictured, when we drank low-fat milk. That was before La Chiricana came out with its low-fat option (Fit).
Nevada offers whole, low-fat, non-fat, and lactose-free milk options. They even have a 2 milks with oatmeal (avena) added (in graphic above)
I have tried Bonlac and I don’t like it. I did not like the taste.
Bonlac also offers flavored milks in small child-sized boxes. Very sweet milk. It’s strawberry (fresa) and vanilla flavored milks are in the graphic above.
This is the milk to buy if you are buying refrigerated milk. I think it tastes the best.
However, we have found that the taste of refrigerated milk can vary, and not usually for the better. It doesn’t taste like it is going off, just strange. It is the main reason I gave up on refrigerated milk and started buying boxed milk.
You can get some specialty milk in Panama, such as
- Raw milk – straight from the cow
- Lactose-free milk (in most major grocery stores)
- Goat milk – occasionally available in the refrigerator section of the store.
- Organic Goat Milk – from select farms
- Heavy Cream
In some parts of Panama, you can go to the dairy and buy raw milk.
In the past I have bought milk from right from a farmer, still warm from the cow’s udder. I don’t do that anymore. The kids were not crazy about the taste, which also was inconsistent. Also I felt compelled to pasteurize it myself on the stove. This was a pain in the neck.
When I was growing up we had raw milk delivered to our house. But it was raw certified milk, meaning it had been tested to make sure it was safe.
I found it interesting that the milk I bought from the farm had very little cream. Much less than I had experienced when drinking raw milk in the States. I am not sure if the farmer skimmed it off before giving it to me, or if it came from a low-fat producing breed of cow, or..
Organic Goat Milk
Dos Pinos does sell a bag of heavy milk that I have successfully used to replace heavy cream in recipes. Particularly a hot fudge sauce recipe my family loves. I wouldn’t use this heavy cream in my coffee though. It has a unique after taste. Unfortunately, at least in my town, this heavy cream is not always available.
Caution: Dos Pinos also sells sour cream in an identical looking bag. The bag is small, cream colored and about 5 x 2 inches. Sorry, I don’t have a photo of it.
About Non-Refrigerated Boxed Milk
Researching what they do to make milk able to sit on the shelf for 6 months was eye-opening.
But not in the way you think.
I didn’t know I had been drinking the milk, even in the States, without realizing it.
Most refrigerated milk, esp. Organic, sold in the States goes through the same Ultra High Temperature (UHT) Pasteurization as non-refrigerated milk.
See the chart for details.
The only difference between UHT pasteurized milk that is refrigerated vs. non-refrigerated is the container. The non-refrigerated milk goes into a sterile box which is made of layers of various materials.
They refrigerated UHT milk in the States because Americans distrusted the warm boxed milk. So they gave us the same milk that is in the boxes, but sold it in the refrigerated section and in familiar-looking cartons. But they didn’t tell us. I had no idea.
Popular in Europe & South America
Non-refrigerated milk is very common in Europe and throughout Mexico and South America. I do not know if it is common in Canada or not.
I’d be interested in hearing from someone who does know. Have Canadians embraced boxed milk? (I have heard you can buy milk in bags in Canada. Is that so?). Please comment below.
UPDATE: Sarah and Roger graciously left a comment saying that boxed milk is the norm in Canada. And that buying milk in bags is also very common. See the comment section below for more.
Price of Milk is High
In Panama, a gallon of milk is $4.34 – $5.25.
In Panama, boxed milk ranges from about $1.34 to $1.70 a quart. (It only comes in the quart size.) So in order to buy a gallon of milk, you’d have to buy 4 boxes, costing from $5.36 to $6.80.
For comparison, a gallon of non-Organic milk in Seattle costs from ~$2.69 – $3.49.
I don’t know why milk is so expensive here. Maybe it is because Panama does not produce enough milk for its needs so it has to import a significant quantity of milk.
Well, that is about all I can think to say about milk in Panama.
If you have anything to add or any questions, please share them in the comments below.