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Dairy decoded: What each color cap on your milk bottle really means

Get to know your milk cap colors for quicker shopping trips.
/ Source: TODAY

Most milks are pure white. But the dairy aisle is actually a pretty colorful place.

That's because dairy producers use a variety of different caps and bottles in different hues to help distinguish between the fat content of each beverage. Not all companies play by the rules, but here is a basic guide to make your next trip to the milk section go a little faster.

Cropped view of a man reading the label on a milk bottle. Horizontal shot.Getty Images

Many dairy brands cap their milk bottles according to a system that's similar to the way bread producers color code bag twist ties — by which day of the week the bread was baked.

Shopping for your favorite milk is easy as red, blue or green — with the exception of a few rogue producers like Horizon Organics, which color codes by the labels on the front of milk (all of their half-gallon milks use white caps and all of their gallon milks use red).

But when it comes to most major brands, like Dairy Pure, Target's Market Pantry, Dairy Maid, ShopRite, Hood, Great Value and more, shoppers can count on a pretty consistent color-coded guide, which helps make shopping trips a little more convenient.

Whole milk - red

Among the major purveyors surveyed, red is the most unanimously used cap color for this full-fat beverage. So if you prefer drinking whole milk, which studies say can lower the risk of diabetes and help fight obesity, it's OK to see a little red in the dairy aisle.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 150 calories; 8 grams of protein; 8 grams of fat

2 percent - blue

Varying shades of blue caps are the most widely used to note this popular milk choice, but not every brand colors inside the lines. Watch out for yellow tops and labels thrown into the mix. Some brands, like Dairy Maid and Kemps, use yellow caps on their 2 percent jugs.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 120 calories; 8 grams of protein; 5 grams of fat

1 percent - green

Those who prefer just a little bit of fat in their milk should seek out green-capped bottles. Most brands use this lucky shade for 1 percent milk.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 100 calories; 8 grams of protein; 2 grams of fat

Skim or no-fat - purple

A lot of big dairy brands, such as Dairy Pure, stick to purple but some, such as Target's Market Pantry, stray a bit with a pink cap. And Horizon Organics' carton label (not its cap) actually uses a white label with blue lettering. So if you're seeking skim, always double check the carton or label.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 80 calories; 8 grams of protein; no fat

Want to learn more about milk? Check out this primer on the truth about vegan milks.