Raw milk cheese: tasting the nature without risks

Written by EFW Staff

Raw milk cheese, as a synonym of biodiversity

Last weekend, in Bra took place the most important event in the dairy sector of Italy: Cheese. This edition was the twentieth and it was focused mainly on the theme of raw milk cheese that should be the only way to produce cheese, keeping all its taste and shades that the nature give to the final product. We are talking about unique sensations and great emotions, besides a higher vitamins and calcium count. This can be possible only if the cows are fed with grass and high quality forage, raw materials that come from a careful and wise cultivation, respectful of the nature, without using chemical substances and industrial fertilizers.

Differences between raw and pasteurized milk


Raw milk, as we have already said is the real milk, what comes from directly from the udders of the cow. Before being milked it is sterile, thus completely without harmful pathogenic bacteria, but as it is came into contact with the machines, the hands and the containers and the air itself, it becomes alive. As a consequence, there is a strong presence of bacteria and pathogenic agents both positive and negative, for this reason the pasteurization is necessary.

With the pasteurization all the bacteria are destroyed, all of them, also the good one. The pasteurization make the milk neutral, without taste or particular shades, there’s nothing left of the territorial identification and all the cheese has the same taste.

The danger of raw milk

Making raw milk cheese give particular satisfaction, as we said, for its taste and aromas. The element that give all its shades to the cheese is the lactic flora, substance that contain also all the pathogenic bacteria that can harm our health. The most dangerous are:

  • Campylobacter jejuni: this bacterium affects the gastrointestinal tract and it can be present in raw milk especially during the first hours after milking if refrigerated properly and in contact with the air, then it disappears. It may also occur if the milk remains in contact with infected surfaces or water;
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli O157: H7): this bacterium, which can cause much more serious problems than the previous one, is injected into raw milk, in particular through contact with infected stools and people;
  • Listeria monocytogenes: Listeria is a bacterium that affects seriously children, elderly people and pregnant women, but just one family strain causes significant imbalances, in other forms it only looks like a gastroenteritis. It is mainly found in decomposing tissues and materials and in some meat-based foods. We daily ingest a very small amount of listeria, the problem get worse when we take large amounts of food with this bacterium;
  • Salmonella spp: most responsible for food poisoning that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Unprocessed milk may be affected by this bacterium if it remains in contact with infected surfaces or if it is not properly refrigerated.

Raw milk: how to eliminate the risk of contamination


From the analysis of the previous paragraph, it turns out that all negative bacteria develop almost always when the milk comes into contact with a dirty surfaces, poor environment and wrong food. Therefore, instead of making milk neutral by pasteurizing it, it is possible to overcome the problem by adopting special hygiene measures combining traditional techniques of the mountain with the most innovative technologies that ensure cleanliness and hygiene.
Control and self-control measures have also been reinforced in the recent years, especially at European level, through the so-called “hygiene package”, which includes both the HACCP protocol for self-control and the systematic monitoring of microbiological conditions by official authorities, radically changing the way to produce raw milk cheese, ensuring greater safety for the consumer.
Speaking of the consumer, raw milk due to its huge bacterial charge is absolutely not recommended for pregnant women, children and the elderly, but for everyone else the risks are really minimal compared to the positive benefits and tastes that it entails.

Cheese made with raw milk


Among the cheeses produced with raw milk, we find medium and long seasoning cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Puzzone di Moena or some sheep’s milk that provide a rest for more than 60 days. Other cheeses are malga or alpeggio cheeses such as Morlacco, produced in the Grappa or raw pasta like Toma or formaggella.

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EFW Staff