Raw Milk Cheese vs. Heat Treated Cheese


Display of Wisconsin Cheeses

Part 2 of a 7 part series on Wisconsin Artisan and Farmstead Cheeses

by Bill Anderson

Before we delve into the artisan and farmstead cheese of Wisconsin, let’s first cover some basics.

The American Raw Milk Cheese Maker’s Association defines a raw milk cheese in a similar way as the European Union:

“Cheese produced from milk that, prior to setting the curd, has not been heated above the temperature of the milk (104°F, 40°C) at the time of milking and that the cheese produced from that milk shall be aged for 60 days or longer at a temperature of not less than 35°F (2°C) in accordance with US FDA regulations.”

The purpose of this definition is to distinguish cheese made with REAL raw milk, from mass produced imitators.

This is because some industrialized cheese makers will produce cheese from milk that has undergone a thermal treatment similar to pasteurization, but at temperatures below the legal threshold for pasteurization.  Pasteurization requires that milk be held at 161°F for 15-20 seconds, but these cheese makers “heat-treat” their raw milk at about 150°F for 15-20 seconds.

High-Temperature-Short Time-Pasteurizer

A High-Temperature Short-Time pasteurizer.

This machine (photo on right)  for pasteurizing milk is sometimes used to “heat treat” milk for cheese making below the legal temperature of pasteurization.  All cheese made from milk which isn’t legally pasteurized must be aged at least 60 days in the United States.

While cheeses made from this “thermalized” milk must still be aged 60 days (required of all U.S. raw milk cheese, by law) these cheeses are far different than REAL raw milk cheese with all the natural enzymes, cultures, and properties of milk as it comes out of the udder.

Unfortunately, much of the mass produced “raw milk cheese” available at grocery stores today is produced using this method.  While these cheeses may accurately be called “non-pasteurized”, it is misleading to consumers that they are often labeled as “raw milk cheese.”

Though the government draws no distinction between these two types of “unpasteurized” cheese, a genuine turophile (cheese lover) will immediately recognize the difference.  Genuine handcrafted raw milk cheese, aged in a cellar or cave-like environment, is an entirely different affair than these mass produced commodity cheeses that are vacuum sealed in plastic bags and aged in a walk-in cooler.

Though not all of the cheeses covered in this series are made from raw milk, they are all hand crafted using traditional techniques.

Tomorrow:   Lovetree Farmstead Cheese.


Scott Trautman and Bill Anderson

Bill Anderson is 25 year old  cheese maker, now living in Ohio.  Born in Wisconsin, and raised on lots of Wisconsin cheese, he became interested in raw milk and artisan dairy in his early 20?s, at local farmer’s markets and local food functions.  Bill worked for a number of years as a cheese monger, and is now poised to begin producing artisan raw milk cheese from some of the best organic and sustainable dairy farms.


  1. Well, shucks…thanks for the info, I didn’t realize. We have been buying the Alta Dena natural cheeses “Made from raw milk, aged over 180 days”. I was so excited to find these as they are affordable. I checked on their website, and it didn’t give any info. I was wondering, do you happen to know if this cheese is “real” raw cheese? Any info you can provide would be most helpful. Thank you so much!

  2. Kimberly Hartke says:

    I don’t happen to know. Perhaps another blog reader can enlighten you!

  3. Pavil, the Uber Noob says:

    What the preferred method finding the rest of the articles?

  4. Zoe Rothfuss says:

    I’ve been buying the Organic Valley raw milk cheese…after reading this article, I went to their website, which has this to say:

    The difference in our “raw milk” cheeses is in the way our pasture-raised cow’s milk is processed before the cheese making even begins. Referred to as “sub-pasteurization,” our organic milk is “heat treated” to the threshold of pasteurization without actually being pasteurized. The benefit of using a heat-treated, as opposed to pasteurized, milk is that some of the natural enzymes (lipase, phosphatase, etc.) will not be denatured. This helps to impart a unique flavor profile to the cheese.

    How disappointing! I wish eating real food didn’t require so much detective work. 🙁

  5. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Pavil, use the search box and search by the authors name or keywords of articles you are looking for. You can also click on the revolving tag cloud on my sidebar, when you hover over the words and they turn blue, click. That will do a sort of my entire blog.


  1. […] have been aged at least 60 days.  Here’s an interesting article about cheese protocall:  http://hartkeisonline.com/raw-milk-cheese-2/raw-milk-cheese-vs-heat-treated-cheese/. Here’s a finished crottin of chèvre, rolled in fresh herbs from my fire-escape garden. Share […]

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