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Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized vs Heat Treated Cheese

Posted by Vitali C on

One of the most commonly asked questions we get relates to the topic of Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized cheese. We receive a ton of email about it so I thought it might be a good idea to have this out there for everyone. 

Simply put, the difference lies in the temperature to which the milk is heated to. But the topic is much deeper than that. It's a matter of history, food safety, technique, logistics, flavour and more. 

The 'war' between cheese enthusiasts and law makers stems from the safety aspect of selling unpasteurized cheese. One side argues that it's been done safely for hundreds of years and the other speaks about dangers of selling it on a mass market scale. Both have valid arguments which need to be considered and addressed. So that's where we stand today, raw milk cheese is available in Canada but with rules and limitations. 

The Rules

In Canada, domestic or imported unpasteurized cheese must be aged for at least 60 days before we're allowed to sell it. By this time, it is considered that any potentially harmful bacteria will have died off naturally. 


 Pasteurized Cheeses from Spain & Holland


Pasteurized Cheese

The milk is heated to about 65 degrees. This kills off any pathogenic bacteria that could potentially be harmful. The issue cheese lovers have with pasteurization is that this process also destroys all the naturally occurring organisms in the cheese that give it it's flavour. A majority of the cheeses we have available today in Canada are pasteurized.


Raw milk cave-aged Swiss Gruyere


Unpasteurized Cheese

The milk is heated to about 30 degrees. This is just enough heat to allow the milk to start fermenting and eventually become cheese. The bacterial compounds of the cheese are not destroyed and thus result in a much more flavourful, powerful cheese.  

Some industry experts believe that the enzymes in raw milk cheese are healthier and help us digest it easier. I’ll look for a few articles about this and post them on our Facebook page soon.

In Europe, they’ve been eating unpasteurized/raw milk cheese for a long, long time. Pasteurization was applied to cheese in the early 1900s so before that, all cheese was made from raw milk.

Heat Treated 10 year old Ontario Cheddar


Heat-Treated Cheese 

The milk is ‘heat-treated’, which means it is heated to about 55 degrees for approximately 15 seconds. This method is considered to be a good balance between pasteurized and unpasteurized as the slow heating of the milk is thought to have killed off any ‘potentially dangerous’ bacteria while still leaving a lot of complex flavours that would have normally been gone at 65 degrees. Our 10 year old cheddar is heat treated, but it has recently been discontinued :/ (a rant post on this topic coming soon too). The rules for heat treated cheeses are the same as the ones applied to unpasteurized cheese. Since the milk hasn't been pasteurized, it must be aged for at least 60 days as well. 


Some things to consider...

The only cases were I would recommend avoiding raw milk cheese is where a person’s immune system is compromised. Pregnant women, the elderly or people who are very sick should probably avoid unpasteurized cheese. We don't know exactly how risky it is for this group of people to consume raw milk cheese but to be safe we always recommend avoiding it.  For peace of mind, if not for any other reason. 


We ship the finest quality pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses 

Our Business and Unpasteurized Cheese 

We source our cheese from producers who care deeply about the product they are putting out. I mean, seriously care and do it for the love, more than anything else. They have the knowledge, ethics and infrastructure to produce delicious healthy unpasteurized, pasteurized and heat treated cheeses. 

We have a selection of Pasteurized Cheeses and Unpasteurized Cheeses available for individual sale and we are constantly adding to the list. We also include both types of cheese in our Cheese Samplers, which have varied selections that changed based on what's ripe and available at the time of your order. The same with our Cheese Club

My thoughts

Just because a cheese is unpasteurized doesn't automatically mean it's great. Plenty of master cheese makers have been able to create pasteurized cheeses that taste unbelievably good through skill and knowledge of the craft. I've also seen cheeses makers take beautiful fresh raw milk and turn it into something inedible. 

Concerns regarding the safety of eating unpasteurized cheese for the average person should be alleviated through education. Our raw milk cheeses are all over 60 days aged and perfectly safe to consume. Whether you want to consume it or not is your decision and that's the beautiful part of the current situation, we have a choice. It's available, it's for sale and it's our decision.

I personally love unpasteurized cheese because of the complex flavour profiles and how they linger on the palette but I also eat and love a bunch of pasteurized cheeses made here in Ontario, Quebec or across the world.  

I hope this info was useful to everyone. If you have any other topics you want us to cover, please tweet, email or leave a comment on our Facebook page. 


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