Popular Milk Brands Ranked From Worst To Best

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Milk is nothing less than a mealtime stalwart. And, while you may be skeptical, the BBC reports that people all around the world have consumed milk for millennia. This nutrient-rich food naturally comes complete with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat. Culturally speaking, milk is a staple in quite a few American homes. Assuming you can tolerate the lactose in milk, you probably have a gallon or two of the stuff in your refrigerator right now ready to be poured on cereal, used in a recipe, or enjoyed plain with a snack.

Because milk is so popular, there are plenty of brands to choose from. It can therefore be downright overwhelming to pick out the best carton or gallon in the grocery store. You need to consider the flavor, smell, and nutritional content of each one before making your choice. What's more, your ideal milk selection may also depend on your budget and how your body reacts to dairy.

Thankfully, Mashed is here to help. We've combed through the most popular milk brands in America and ranked them from worst to best. Here are the milk brands you should avoid and the ones you should reach for on your next grocery trip.

15. Great Value

Great Value is Walmart's main retail brand, which sells a rather wide variety of food products, including milk. They are most well-known for what their name pretty blatantly implies: a good price. Yet, this is one of the reasons Great Value ranks lowest on our list of popular milk brands. You get what you pay for here.

Now, Walmart's store brand milk isn't bad outright, but it's nothing to write home about. No sip has ever left us savoring the flavor on our tongue or sharing how delicious it was with friends. We simply pick up this milk because it's affordable, and nothing more. Some shoppers have also found that this brand doesn't smell or taste as fresh as others and may even sour before the expiration date. "This milk stays less fresh considerably less than any other brand," said one reviewer on Influenster. "I have tried multiple stores with the same result. It spoils before expiration date every single time."

We'll grab a gallon of Great Value milk if we're in Walmart and trying to save money, but otherwise, we'd choose almost any other brand any day.

14. Friendly Farms

Friendly Farms is to discount grocery store stalwart Aldi what Great Value is to Walmart. Known for its efficient service and budget-friendly prices, it's no surprise that Aldi is a favorite among many grocery shoppers. By avoiding name brands and keeping most products in their original packaged boxes, this store can significantly cut down on labor costs to save you money on the products themselves. We're certainly not against nabbing a great deal, but we must admit that Aldi's milk may not leave you completely satisfied.

According to the blog Aldi Reviewer, this store's milk is just about average. "The milk seems, on balance, to last about as long as other milks I've purchased ... which is to say it's unpredictable. I never know from jug to jug whether the milk inside will go bad a few days before the expiration date or days afterward," they wrote. We'll stick to great produce and canned food deals when we shop at Aldi, but we'll get our milk elsewhere.

13. Horizon Organic

The word "organic" may be tempting to some shoppers, but know that this brand shouldn't be your first pick if you're looking for organic milk. Namely, Horizon Organic has been in hot water multiple times regarding misleading claims about organic practices. In 2018, they were the subject of a class-action lawsuit for adding non-organic DHA to their organic milk (via Top Class Actions). The brand has also been accused of unethical treatment of its cows, though its website notes that their cows are treated with love, allowed to graze in pastures for 120 days of the year, and eat an all-organic diet (via Horizon Organic).

The milk itself tastes great, though, and has a loyal fan base. "My family only drinks whole milk and we can definitely taste a difference if it is not Horizon," one reviewer on Influenster wrote. "It just tastes so much richer than other brands, even other organic brands," another one said. We're hoping that this brand shapes up and moves forward with more honest and transparent business practices. Until then, we'll opt for a different organic brand with more above-board operations.

12. Borden

Borden Dairy Company is based in Dallas, Texas, and is perhaps best known for its cheery mascot, Elsie the Cow, who graces all of their products (via Borden Dairy). The brand sells several different milk products including skim milk, reduced-fat milk, and flavored milk. One of their most popular products is their whole milk enriched with vitamin D.

People love how rich and flavorful the whole milk is. "It's great quality taste like you're drinking it straight from the cow," one Amazon reviewer said. However, not everyone likes that "straight from the cow" taste, as Borden's milk may be too rich for people looking for a lighter dairy product. For example, one Influenster reviewer used the words "extremely chocolatey" and "pretty thick" to describe Borden's chocolate milk. "If you're used to drinking nondairy mills or low-fat milks, this may be too thick for you," they concluded. Unless you're a fan of thick, rich, strongly-flavored milk, Borden may not be the exact right purchase for your fridge.

11. A2

The A2 Milk Company is a brand that exclusively sells a product called A2 milk, along with other A2 dairy products. And what, exactly, is A2 milk? Well, all milk contains casein, which is a group of proteins that make up about 80% of milk's protein content (via Medical News Today). One type of casein is beta-casein, which comes in two forms: A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein. While most cows produce both of these proteins, A2 milk is made from cows that only produce A2 beta-casein.

Why does that matter? Some studies have suggested that A2 milk is gentler on the stomachs of people who typically have trouble digesting dairy, though it still contains lactose. Drinking A2 milk may result in less inflammation and lower cholesterol than when drinking regular milk, but these studies are sparse and not conclusive. The biggest reason to drink A2 milk is the decreased likelihood of stomach problems.

As far as this milk brand goes, we enjoy the flavor of its products and appreciate that it can be consumed by people who are sensitive to dairy. However, we don't feel like it tastes better than many of the other brands of milk on this list. It's also pricier than store brands, meaning that budget-conscious shoppers may still be wary.

10. Kirkland Signature

Kirkland Signature is Costco's well-known store brand that carries high-quality items for reasonable prices, sometimes to the point where the Kirkland stuff is better than its name-brand competition. Their Kirkland milk is no different. Even better, it just about always tastes fresh and has the smooth, creamy consistency we look for in a good glass of milk.

What we don't love about the Costco brand of milk, however, is the packaging. The large, rectangular jugs are almost impossible to use without dribbling some milk on the counter, especially when the container is full. "Love Costco and get the idea of having a square jug so more can fit on a pallet. However, 75% of the time they leak and leak badly when pouring. Is it just me? These seem to be designed without the consumer in mind but the store itself," one Reddit reviewer wrote.

According to Reader's Digest, some stores may be selling an updated design that is easier to pour, but this seems to vary depending on location. Unless you've perfected your milk pouring technique, you may want to avoid Kirkland Signature when you can.

9. Trader Joe's

Most of us turn to Trader Joe's for its large selection of snacks, frozen foods, and cheeses. But, while plenty of items at TJ's are mind-blowingly good, their milk is just okay. If it was cheap, we would be fine with that, but it's not. In fact, according to Business Insider, TJ's organic milk is significantly more expensive than the organic milk at Whole Foods, which isn't exactly known for its budget-friendly prices, either.

Trader Joe's milk brand also seems to spoil very quickly. "Is it just my TJ's, or is the milk always just a few days before its sell-by date?... I just basically can't buy milk there, because it takes me more than a few days to go through it," one shopper wrote on Reddit. If you have a small household or don't drink a lot of milk, you probably want to buy it from another brand so it won't go bad before you've had a chance to drink it all.

We should note that Trader Joe's recently began selling ultra-filtered and ultra-pasteurized milk that should have a longer fridge life. It comes in plain and chocolate flavors, both of which taste good and have a wonderfully creamy consistency.

8. Dean's

Dean's milk is owned by Dean Foods, one of the largest dairy companies in the United States. As part of its business empire, Dean Foods also owns other popular milk brands like Alta Dena and DairyPure (via Dean Foods). Although the company is considered a dairy giant, it filed for bankruptcy in 2019, partially as a result of more Americans moving to plant-based milk alternatives (via the New York Times). Yet, it seems as if the company will remain in operation for the perceived future.

Dean's milk is a regional brand mainly sold in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. We like the flavor and think it does a good job of keeping the pure milk taste. "It's always so smooth tasting," one reviewer wrote on Influenster. "Better flavor than other brands!" another raved. However, many shoppers noted that Dean's milk tends to be quite a bit pricier than store brands. If you're drinking it plain or on cereal it's worth the extra couple of dollars, but we'll stick to a cheaper brand for baking.

7. Fairlife

Did you know that Coke has its own milk brand? In 2015, Coca-Cola launched Fairlife milk as an ultra-filtered alternative to other products (via MarketingWeek). This particular variety of milk goes through a unique filtering process that allows the company to determine the various ratios of fat, protein, lactose, water, and vitamins that end up in the final bottle. Pretty cool, right?

Anyone who has trouble digesting more traditional milk products should be interested in Fairlife. The brand makes several different types of milk, including products with 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than the regular stuff, milk with omega-3 fatty acids, and protein shakes with minimal ingredients. The filtering process also removes a large amount of lactose.

Based on innovation and nutrition, we love Fairlife products. Based on price, we're not quite so crazy about them. On average, they cost about twice as much as other brands. That kind of money adds up over time and isn't sustainable for people on a budget.

6. Alta Dena

If you're looking for an affordable milk brand that also tastes pretty good, Alta Dena is very likely for you. Located in Southern California, this company mainly sells to California and Arizona. It started as a small dairy farm in 1945 and has grown to the brand we know and love today. We appreciate the care that goes into Alta Dena's products and that they don't treat their cows with artificial hormones (via Alta Dena).

The milk itself is fairly rich and has plenty of flavor. "In all of these years I never noticed a difference in milk brands until trying this milk. It's 2% but it tastes rich, more like whole milk than any other brand I've tried," one reviewer on Amazon wrote. "It's my personal milk of preference," another said.

Alta Dena milk tends to be moderately priced, which sets it apart from many high-quality milk brands when you're considering your grocery shopping budget. If you're ever in Southern California or Arizona, be sure to check your grocery store for this brand and give it a try.

5. Lactaid

For someone who's lactose intolerant, the world of milk may seem somewhat unattainable. Then, Lactaid became one of the first milk brands to introduce lactose-free milk. Anyone who loved milk but experienced stomach issues when drinking it could finally throw their soy and almond alternatives away. Today, the brand can still be found at most grocery stores and even sells chocolate milk and eggnog! 

Overall, we're impressed with this product, as Lactaid tastes pretty much identical to regular milk. "Our whole family loves this milk. My husband is the only one who technically needs it due to a lactose sensitivity, but we just buy this as the milk for everyone in the house. We like it better than regular milk," one reviewer on Influenster said.

We think Lactaid has the best flavor out of all the milk products that don't contain lactose. However, this name-brand product can be quite pricey because of its reputation and manufacturing process. If you're looking for lactose-free milk, we recommend trying a few different brands and picking the one that works for your mouth and wallet, but you may find that Lactaid lands at a decent spot nonetheless.

4. Darigold

Darigold is a staple milk brand for the Western United States and is currently owned by farmers across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington (via Darigold). Every kind of milk from this brand is reliably rich and creamy, too. "I never thought I'd develop a brand loyalty for milk of all things, but ever since trying Darigold's whole and 2% I haven't bought any other brand. Holy moly does it taste good," one Amazon reviewer wrote.

Of all its various milk products, Darigold does chocolate milk particularly well. One Influenster reviewer compared it to "melted chocolate ice cream or a milkshake." Another swooned over the product, saying "This is, without a doubt, the BEST chocolate milk you will ever have. Everyone in my life knows of my love for Darigold because I rave about this product on a daily basis. You need this chocolate milk in your life." If you're a fan of milk and of chocolate milk in particular, then you need to give Darigold a try.

3. Shamrock Farms

Founded in 1922, Shamrock Farms began as a small dairy farm in Arizona (via Shamrock Farms). The business only expanded outside of Arizona in 2000 and now sells milk around the country. According to its website, Shamrock Farms' cows are given healthy living conditions and are never treated with the hormone rBST. We appreciate their commitment to their animals and definitely feel good about buying this milk. Shamrock sells plain milk plus other milk products like chocolate milk, protein drinks, and eggnog.

As far as the taste goes, it seems like you really can taste whether or not the cows are happy. Shamrock Farms milk has a pure, rich flavor that somehow also reminds us of our childhood. As one reviewer on Influenster wrote, "I grew up on milk and used to think they were all about the same. But, once I started paying attention I noticed a big [difference] from brand to brand. This one is just always consistent, simple, clean, pure milk taste. Love it."

2. Organic Valley

If you're looking for a solid organic milk option, Organic Valley is a great pick. It's been rated well by the Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog group that monitors ethical agricultural practices in the U.S. They gave Organic Valley an "Excellent" rating in their 2018 review of dairy brands (via The Cornucopia Institute). 

Organic Valley offers multiple milk products, including whole milk, reduced-fat, low-fat, skim, and lactose-free varieties (via Organic Valley). They also sell "grass milk", which comes from 100% grass-fed cows. We love the pure taste of every sip of this brand's milk, which places it pretty darn high in the ranking. "A great tasting milk that has the rich, quality flavor that people want," one Influenster reviewer wrote. Overall, the milk from Organic Valley is slightly sweet with a smooth, rich texture. It also has very little odor, contrasted to the off-putting smell of some lower-quality brands. The price is higher than store brands, but know that you're genuinely paying for good quality here.

1. Stonyfield Organic

Topping our list is another organic option, Stonyfield Organic. This particular milk is consistently rated as one of the best organic milk brands, also earning an "Excellent" rating in The Cornucopia Institute's dairy brands review (via The Cornucopia Institute). According to its website, the company doesn't use any toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs in any product (via Stonyfield Organic).

But it's not just the nutritional aspect of this brand that we like. This is hands-down some of the best-tasting milk you can find in a grocery store. It has a rich, pure milk taste without any watery flavor or strange aftertaste. It's a little sweet without being overpowering and doesn't contain any strange odors. Overall, Stonyfield is just fresh, delicious milk. We'll choose Stonyfield Organic over another brand any day, whether we're using it in a baking recipe, adding it to a bowl of cereal, or drinking it straight from the carton.