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 Information at a glance

General
  • Cheese is a solid food made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and other mammals. Cheese is made by coagulating milk. This is accomplished by first acidification with a bacterial culture and then employing an enzyme, rennet  to coagulate the milk to "curds and whey. The precise bacteria and processing of the curds play a role in defining the texture and flavor of most cheeses. Some cheeses also feature molds, either on the outer rind or throughout.
  • There are hundreds of types of cheese produced all over the world. Different styles and flavors of cheese are the result of using milk from various mammals or with different butterfat contents, employing particular species of bacteria and molds, and varying the length of aging and other processing treatments. Other factors include animal diet and the addition of flavoring agents such as herbs, spices, or wood smoke. Whether the milk is pasteurized may also affect the flavor. The yellow to red coloring of many cheeses is a result of adding annatto. Cheeses are eaten both on their own and cooked as part of various dishes; most cheeses melt when heated.

Process

  • The fat and protein levels in milk are adjusted to consistently attain the same raw material for cheese. Cream may be skimmed off or added by the cheese maker to obtain the desired level of milk fat. Nonfat dry milk also may be added by the cheese maker to obtain desired levels of protein. This process assures a consistent high quality of the final product.

  • Milk is heated to specific temperatures for predetermined times.  This destroys undesirable pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli or Listeria mono cytogenes. Pasteurization also prevents these micro organisms from interfering with starter ultures, and thereby assures the quality and safety of the final cheese. After pasteurization, milk is pumped into cheese vats.

Technology

  • Procedures for freezing cheese differ depending upon variety. Generally, cheese should be frozen as quickly as possible to –23°C. For best flavor, cheese should not be frozen for longer than a few months. After the cheese is thawed, it should be stored between 0° to 1°C for 10 days. This process is known as ‘‘tempering,’’ and assures that the texture and melting performance of the cheese are not affected by frozen storage.

  • Blocks of Mozzarella can be frozen and stored between –18° to –29°C for one year without adverse effects because its curd is stretched during its manufacturing process. To assure that the texture and melting performance of the cheese are not affected by frozen storage, it should be tempered between 0° to 1°C for 10 days after the cheese is thawed. It takes up to 10 days to thaw.

Market

  • U.S. cheese exports rose 3% to 53,929 tons on the strength of a 16% increase in shipments to the Far East, as Japan, South  Korea, and the Philippines all posted double-digit growth. Exports to Mexico, our largest market, declined 9%. Exports of whey proteins climbed 6% to 180,118 tons. Exports to China jumped 52%, making China our largest market for whey. Overall, sales to  the Far East grew 14% and shipments to Mexico expanded by 22%.

  • Due to geographical proximity, NAFTA tariff advantages, a large, young population, steadily growing economy and a consistent U.S. presence, Mexico is the most important market for U.S. dairy exports. Mexico is the largest U.S. market for cheese, ice cream, milk powder and fluid milk and cream.

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