Is Cheese Truly Better in France?

The French are well known for their love of cheese, and sometimes even their pretension about it; however, there is science behind why some may prefer European cheese over what you can buy in America, and it starts with the milk. Raw cheese is made from raw milk, which is used straight from the animal without the additional process of removing bacteria known as pasteurization. In America, this kind of cheese is not allowed, even if it is imported from across the Atlantic. 

Pasteurization is the process of heating a liquid, in this case milk, to a temperature that is sure to kill any harmful bacteria; however, there is good bacteria, which adds both taste and health benefits to the cheese, that is also removed during this process. Many argue that a simple solution to this problem is to ensure proper regulations in dairy farms, given that this harmful bacterium is only the effect of unsanitary conditions. The FDA is still weary. In the United States, you cannot import any raw cheese that has not been aged less than 60 days. Their argument is that this time period is enough to kill any left-over, harmful pathogens in the cheese.

Similarly to the health benefits of other foods high in probiotics such as yogurt, miso, and kombucha, many argue that raw cheese is about more than just a higher quality taste. Probiotics help regulate the already present good bacteria in your gut. Gut health is not only good for your digestion, it has also been linked to improving your mental health. Therefore, good taste is not the only benefit that cheese provides for consumers.

What should you look for if you’re in search of a raw cheese to try? If you’re in the United States, a comte PDO is a good place to start. Comte is a hard cheese that is often aged beyond the 60-day rule, so it can be found in the United States. PDO means “Protected Designation of Origin” and refers to products that are made according to the traditional methods of a specific region. Parmigiano Reggiano is an example from Italy that can also be made from raw milk and can likely be found in the United states as it is also aged.

If you do find yourself on the same continent as the Eiffel Tower, be sure to look for a Brie de Meaux. Brie is the best and most well-known example of a soft cheese that is made with unpasteurized milk, and although it is popular in the United States, it is unlikely to be a raw cheese. Be sure to take note of the French translation for PDO, which is AOC, when shopping for your brie in France.


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