Some like it Raw

Milk, Raw, Thermalized, Pasturized

I was contacted by the CEO of Grafton Cheese shortly after I wrote the “I Know the Cheesemaker (too)”

It seems there is a difference between raw milk and unpasturized milk. I turned to the internet to try to research this before our appointment to speak, but couldn’t find anything on it. So this blog has original source research information. That makes me happy!

This can get complicated and I will endeavor to make it simple.

The FDA considers any milk that is not pasturized as “raw”. Pasturization heats the milk to a minimum of 160 degrees for 15 seconds or 145 degress for 30 minutes.

Some cheesemakers choose to Thermize or Thermalize (synonomous terms) their milk which heats it to 135 degrees to 154 degrees for at least 15 seconds. This significantly reduces the bacteria count while preserving the milk enzymes. Whether milk is raw, or thermalized the FDA requires cheese that is made from it to be aged for at least 60 days. According to the FDA there is no functional difference between raw milk and unpasturized milk.


There are artisan cheesemakers that want to and intentionally use raw – UNthermalized milk to make their cheese. In deference to those artisan cheesemakers Grafton Cheese will be changing their label designation from “raw” to “Unpasturized”

Why thermalize milk? Cheeses that are made from raw milk, such as Reggiano Parmigiano, know which specific batches and herds the milk comes from for each and every wheel of cheese produced. Grafton uses milk that comes from a carefully controlled cooperative. While all of the milk used comes from known local farms, the milk from those farms may be mixed before being distributed.

If we work this from the other end. Cheesemakers that are on a farm working with one herd and do not thermalize their milk in cheesemaking, by convention, will be said to make raw milk cheese. Cheesemakers that heat their milk and stop short of pasturization will be said to make cheese from unpasturized milk.

From this point on I will follow this convention and use the appropriate terms and designations.

In Summary:

  • Raw milk goes from the cow to the refrigerator.
  • Thermalized, or thermized milk is briefly heated to about 140 degrees, enough to reduce the bacteria count but not denature the milk enzymes.
  • Pasturized milk is heated to 160 degrees and beyond.

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