Although many people throw milk away once it reaches its "best before" date, the fact is that the milk will still likely be good for several more days. In order to eliminate such waste, scientists at Cornell University are designing a "smart" carton.

Being developed through the university's Milk Quality Improvement Program, the carton will incorporate both a QR code and a sensor.

The code will contain information such as the originating dairy farm, the processing plant, and microbes specific to that farm and plant, which may be present in the milk. The sensor, on the other hand, will record the time that has elapsed since the milk was put in the carton, along with the temperatures at which the carton has been stored.

Using an app on their smartphone, customers and retailers will scan both the QR code and the sensor, obtaining a precise expiration date for the milk. Not only would this keep consumers from wasting food and money by discarding perfectly-good milk, but it would also allow retailers to move older milk off their shelves by lowering its price accordingly.

"We can apply digital agriculture tools directly onto the milk cartons to decrease food waste, since consumers get rid of milk too fast," says principal investigator, Prof. Martin Wiedmann. "We can accomplish this while improving the sustainability of our food supply."

The project is being funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the New York State Dairy Promotion Order, and yogurt company Chobani.

And in related news, the University of California-Berkeley has previously developed a carton cap that monitors milk freshness.