Is most goat cheese pasteurized?

Goat cheese, also known as chèvre, is a creamy, tangy cheese made from goat’s milk. It comes in a wide variety of textures, from soft, spreadable fresh cheeses to aged, firm cheeses perfect for grating. Goat cheese is popular around the world, used in many culinary traditions. But when it comes to food safety, many consumers wonder – is most goat cheese pasteurized?

What is pasteurization?

Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill pathogenic microorganisms in food. It is named after French scientist Louis Pasteur, who invented the process in the 1860s. The goal of pasteurization is to make food safe for human consumption by reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

There are a few different methods of pasteurization:

  • Vat pasteurization – Heating milk to at least 145°F for 30 minutes.
  • High-temperature, short-time (HTST) – Heating milk to at least 161°F for 15 seconds.
  • Ultra-pasteurization (UP) – Heating milk to at least 280°F for 2 seconds.

Vat pasteurization results in the least amount of change to the milk, while UP causes more denaturation of milk proteins. However, UP gives milk a longer shelf life. All these methods use time and temperature to eliminate pathogens.

Is pasteurization required for goat cheese?

In many countries, pasteurization is mandatory for cheeses made from raw (unpasteurized) milk that are aged less than 60 days. This includes popular soft goat cheeses like chevre.

However, regulations vary from place to place. In France, for example, raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days can be sold if they meet certain microbiological standards. In the US, all cheeses made from raw milk, regardless of aging time, cannot be sold across state lines. But within a state, the rules may differ.

So while pasteurization of goat cheese is required in many circumstances, it is not universal across all geographies and cheese types.

Why pasteurize goat milk?

Goat milk is pasteurized to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause serious illnesses if consumed raw.

Goats can contract infections during milking. Their milk can also be contaminated by bacteria in the environment. Pasteurization is the only way to fully destroy these pathogens.

The main risk groups for consuming raw milk are infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems. But even healthy people have gotten sick from drinking raw milk.

How pasteurization affects goat cheese

Pasteurization has some effects on the final cheese product:

  • Flavor – Some subtle flavors can be lost, especially grassy, floral, or tangy notes. But most flavors remain intact.
  • Texture – The curd structure can be slightly firmer in pasteurized cheeses.
  • Appearance – Pasteurized goat cheeses are often pure white instead of ivory.
  • Nutrition – There is a small loss of vitamin C but calcium and other nutrient levels remain unchanged.

Most cheese connoisseurs can discern textural differences between pasteurized and raw milk cheeses side-by-side. But the differences are typically minimal. And for food safety, pasteurization is worthwhile.

Why do some people prefer raw milk cheeses?

Certain cheese makers and gourmets argue that raw milk cheeses have a more complex, robust flavor. They believe pasteurization mellows out some special flavors.

Additionally, they claim raw milk cheeses have better texture due to the presence of certain enzymes and microbial cultures. These elements may impact the cheese curd development.

There is also a general philosophy that raw milk cheeses are more natural or traditional. So there is a contingent of cheese purists who resist widespread pasteurization.

Is it safe to eat raw milk cheeses?

The risks of consuming raw milk cheeses include:

  • – Brucellosis
  • – Listeriosis
  • – Salmonellosis
  • – E. Coli
  • – Staphylococcal infection
  • – Campylobacteriosis

Symptoms range from fever, stomach cramps, and diarrhea to neurological problems, miscarriage, and death in severe cases. Vulnerable populations face the highest risks.

To make raw milk cheeses safer, cheesemakers can test milk for pathogens, use certain starter cultures that inhibit pathogens, and monitor curd acidity levels. Strict hygiene during milking and cheesemaking is also critical.

But even with safety measures, the risks cannot be fully eliminated. The CDC maintains that raw milk is never recommended for anyone to consume.

Regulations on raw milk cheese around the world

Regulations on raw milk cheese vary significantly across different countries and regions:

Country/Region Regulations
United States Sale of raw milk cheeses is prohibited nationwide if aged under 60 days. Only permitted within states that allow raw milk sales.
Canada Sale of raw milk cheeses is prohibited nationwide.
European Union Raw milk cheeses permitted if aged over 60 days. Additional food safety requirements.
France Raw milk cheeses permitted regardless of aging time. Must meet microbiological standards.
Italy Raw milk cheeses permitted. Must be aged at least 60 days if made from cow or buffalo milk.
Spain Raw milk cheeses permitted if proper food safety procedures followed.
Australia Most states prohibit raw milk cheeses. Some allow raw milk cheddar aged over 9 months.

So we see a wide variety of regulations around the world. Some take a more liberal approach to raw milk cheeses, while others take a strict stance requiring pasteurization.

How to tell if a cheese is pasteurized or raw

It can be tricky for consumers to identify whether a cheese is made from pasteurized or raw milk. Here are a few ways to tell:

  • Labels – Look for key phrases like “made from raw milk” or “made from pasteurized milk”. The milk treatment must be declared.
  • Origin – Research if the country/region has mandatory pasteurization laws. This could indicate if raw milk was used.
  • Age – Young, soft cheeses are typically required to be pasteurized. Aged hard cheeses are more likely to be raw.
  • Appearance – Pasteurized cheeses tend to be brighter white.
  • Ask – Don’t hesitate to ask your cheesemonger or check the cheesemaker’s website for milk details.

When in doubt, assume that cheeses labeled as just “goat cheese” or “chèvre” are pasteurized for food safety. Look for special labeling of raw milk cheeses.

Is pasteurized goat cheese still high quality?

While some cheese purists insist raw milk cheeses are superior, pasteurized goat cheeses can still be incredibly high quality.

Skilled cheesemakers use quality milk from healthy goats and meticulous processes to produce delicious pasteurized cheeses full of flavor, smooth textures, and visual appeal.

Mild flavor differences between pasteurized and raw milk cheeses are not hugely significant for the average taster. Pasteurized cheeses retain the fundamental goat cheese characteristics.

For soft fresh cheeses in particular, pasteurization is essential for marketability and safety. And aged raw milk cheeses are cost prohibitive for many consumers.

Notable pasteurized goat cheese brands

Many top artisan cheesemakers use pasteurized milk to craft flavorful goat cheeses. Here are some excellent pasteurized goat cheese brands:

  • – Cypress Grove Chevre – California, USA
  • – Vermont Creamery – Vermont, USA
  • – Laura Chenel – California, USA
  • – Montchevre – Wisconsin, USA
  • – Woolwich Dairy – Ontario, Canada
  • – Fromagerie Tournevent – Quebec, Canada
  • – Tribe Hummus – New South Wales, Australia

These cheeses frequently win awards at prestigious cheese competitions globally. They prove pasteurized goat cheese can be top-quality.

Prevalence of pasteurized vs. raw goat cheese in the US

The vast majority of commercially sold goat cheese in the US is pasteurized. Exact statistics are not available, but pasteurization is the industry norm for legal and safety reasons. The highest quality goat dairies use pasteurization.

Only those purchasing directly from very small farms and dairies in states that allow raw milk sales are likely to obtain raw milk cheeses. These account for less than 1% of the US goat cheese market.

So while artisanal raw milk cheeses do have a niche, pasteurized goat cheese absolutely dominates the broader American market in both volume and dollar value.

Prevalence of pasteurized vs. raw goat cheese globally

It is difficult to estimate precise global figures, but pasteurized goat cheese also dominates worldwide:

  • – Europe – Raw milk cheeses have a small market share. Majority are pasteurized.
  • – North America – Pasteurization is near universal. Raw milk cheese is exceedingly rare.
  • – Australia/New Zealand – Raw milk cheese is prohibited. Must be pasteurized.
  • – Asia – Pasteurization is quickly becoming the norm as dairy markets develop.
  • – Africa – Rapidly growing dairy sectors rely on pasteurization for food safety.
  • – Latin America – Most formal cheeses are pasteurized, while some artisanal ones may use raw milk.

While the exact ratios differ, pasteurized goat cheeses enjoy a clear dominance worldwide. Pasteurization has become a standard practice for the global goat cheese industry.


To summarize, while artisanal raw milk cheeses certainly have a prestigious reputation, the vast majority of commercially sold goat cheese is pasteurized. Pasteurization is required by law for young, soft cheeses in many regions. And most major cheesemakers adopt pasteurization voluntarily to ensure food safety and marketability. The data clearly shows pasteurized goat cheese dominates worldwide thanks to its reliable safety profile and ability to deliver excellent flavor and quality. While the raw vs pasteurized debate continues among cheese purists, most evidence points to pasteurized goat cheese being the norm in today’s dairy market.

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