Cheese is for many of us one of the most delicious foods we have in our diet and a must that always need to be included on your weekly grocery list. Studies from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) suggest than more than six billion people worldwide consume milk and milk products. There is such a big offer, so many cheese types in the market and with numerous ways to consume and share it, that sometimes it is a little daunting to know if you are choosing the right one for you.
Cheese is made of milk and its diverse characteristics derives from different compositions and types of milk, processes applied, and microorganisms used. It is produced through the coagulation of milk protein (casein), which then is separated from the milk’s whey. Hundreds of varieties of cheese are produced, many of them being characteristic to a specific region of the world.
Only mammals produce milk, but not all mammals that produce milk can be used for cheese. The principle animals whose milk can be used for cheese production include the following:
There are over 800 breeds of cattle recognised worldwide, some of which adapted to their local climates, others which were bred by humans for specialised use. The most popular of all dairy cow breeds include: the Holstein, Guernsey, Short Horn, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and the Jersey.
The six major dairy goat breeds are the Nubian, Alpine, Saanen, La Mancha, Oberhasli and Toggenburg. Cheese made from sheep and goat milk, are naturally lower in lactose, which makes it less troubling for people with lactose intolerance.
More than 200 breeds of sheep exist across the world. Some of the most common dairy breeds include the East Friesian, Lacaune, Sardinian, Zwartbie, Awassi, Churra, Chios, Assaf, Manchega, and the Comisana.
The domestic buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, is used for mozzarella, Chhena, Domiati among other cheeses and is descended from the wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee), which now designated an endangered species under the IUCN red list. Two subspecies are recognised, the river type and the swamp type.
Other species used for milk products across the world include yaks, horses, reindeer and camels.
Cheese can also be made of soy and there are a wide variety of soy cheeses, including non-dairy cream cheese available in different supermarkets.
Cheeses come in various forms; hard or soft, with or without rind, herbed or smoked, mature or fresh. The list goes on. For many people, cheese is the perfect finish to a delicious meal. For others, cheese is a component of their dish. Although not everybody consumes cheese, the world economy has a high demand for it; and it is exported worldwide.
If we look first at what percentage of the milk produced in the EU is used for cheese this are the results:
Source: Italian Dairy Economic Consulting
Source: Foreign Agricultural Service/USDA December 2016 Office of Global Analysis
U.S. Cheese Exports Face Strong EU Competition
U.S. was the top cheese producer country in 2016 with 5,490 tons, however it was surpassed by the European Union with 9,875, where Germany, France, Italy and Netherlands jointly produced 5,908.71 tons of cheese.