The prevalent belief is that pasteurized milk is safer for human consumption than raw milk. But there are many that consider pasteurized milk a desecration of nature’s perfect food. So what's a cheeselover to believe?
According to US law, any cheese made with raw milk needs to be aged for 60 days or more. The belief is that this holding period will inhibit the growth of Listeria, Salmonella and E.coli bacteria. Yummy.
But many argue that if the cows are clean and dairy hygiene immaculate, then raw milk is in fact safer and more nutritious than pasteurized. Bacteria in milk have a way of keeping their environment stable—if you kill all the "bad" then dangerous pathogens can invade the milk unchallenged. Bacteria also impart flavor and character to the milk (it’s alive!).
My view? There are great raw cheeses and great pasteurized cheeses - try them all. And if you happen to come across a "barely legal" raw cheese in your travels, bon appétit…
Great raw cheeses: Roquefort, Cheddar (most), and Gruyère
Great pasteurized cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Garrotxa, and Mimolette
Suggested reading: The Milk Book (The Milk of Human Kindness is not Pasteurized), W.C. Douglass II, M.D. Warning – you may not be able to drink pasteurized milk ever again.