Over the course of the past year, our Research Associate Daniel McElligott has been compiling a series of profiles on cheesemaking in several states across the USA, including Massachusetts, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Through this project we have gained insight into cheesemaking methods and regulations across the country. Our final state for this project was Maine, a state with regulations different from any other state we have looked at up to this point.
Maine is home to a strong cheese industry with over 80 producers both big and small using milk from cows, goats, sheep, and even water buffalo! According to the Maine Cheese Guild, there are 23 more cheesemakers awaiting the clearance of their applications to be licensed with the state of Maine! The Maine Cheese Guild also hosts an annual cheese festival with local producers, demos, and live music.
Milk treatment is the most interesting aspect of our research into Maine. There are producers who are using raw milk and pasteurized milk but if you were to purchase cheese from a producer in Maine, at a farm stand, farmers market, or retailer you may see the label referring to the milk used as “Heat-Treated” but also stating that the product is “Not Pasteurized.” To consumers outside of Maine this may be confusing, as the label can seem contradictory. During our research we looked into the labeling regulations further in order to clarify the terminology: If a cheesemaker is not using equipment with constant agitation and thermometers on the top, middle, and bottom of the machine, they cannot refer to their cheese as pasteurized in Maine. The milk is still heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, however due to the equipment restrictions it is not considered pasteurized and cannot be sold outside of Maine. This is one of the reasons why you don't see more Maine cheeses in your local cheese shop.
As we more to the new year, we will be using the compiled informaiton to work with cheesemakers, legislators and regulators to promote a stronger artisanal cheese movement. We are very thankful and appreciative to all who have helped us compile our profiles on cheesemaking in the United States: regulators, cheesemakers, cheese guilds, and many more! You have helped us gain valuable insight and further direction for the Cheese Coalition!
Want to help us with projects like this in the future? Support us through our membership options or a donation! Your help is greatly appreciated and gives us the ability to advocate and promote for cheesemaking and raw milk cheeses across the world!
Daniel McElligott - Oldways Cheese Coalition Research Associate