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Cheese Claims And Handling Tips

At BelGioioso, our guiding principle is to never cut corners and to always do what is best for the cheese. Since day one, we have been committed to traditional cheesemaking methods and exceptional quality delivering on the one claim that trumps them all: the flavor.

We acknowledge the importance the market has given on claims for food products, so we have created this page to explain some of the claims to our customers.

Disclaimer: We have expressed our personal opinions on some of these claims.

Click on the topics below for more information.

rBST Free
All BelGioioso cheeses are rBST Free. Our farmers have signed a pledge not to treat their cows with the synthetic hormone rBST.

Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), is a synthetized version of the peptide hormone produced naturally by cows' pituitary glands. Currently there is no test that can distinguish between milk coming from cows treated with rBST and untreated cows. The FDA has said no significant difference has been shown between milks from cows treated with rBST and untreated cows.

The main effect of treating a cow with rBST is that it tricks the cow into eating more and increases milk production. rBST is not in the milk, and since this is the same hormone that is produced naturally by the lactating cows, there is no way to detect the difference. Usually rBST is used in cows that don’t produce enough milk, or cows that are at the end of the lactation period; however, it’s not a miracle drug and needs to be properly managed by the farmer in order to gain some benefit from the increased milk production relative to the cost of the treatment and the additional feed. Another effect to consider is that treated cows might need to be retired earlier from the producing herd.

It is widely known that use of rBST is under pressure from consumers as there is a negative association with it, but less known is the fact that there is also growing pressure from reduced benefits at the dairy farm operations. The production of the synthetic hormone is limited to a few big pharmaceutical groups around the world and the cost of the treatment has been increasing over the years.

rBST is often associated with big farms, but treatment can be used by any size of farm. As explained earlier, the critical point is that it needs to be properly managed in order to have any benefits.

Antibiotic Free
In our own laboratories, we test each load of milk against the strictest quality standards and for the absence of antibiotics.

Similar to humans, dairy cows don’t receive any antibiotics unless they are actually sick. When a cow gets sick, it is separated from the herd and treated with antibiotics. This cow won’t be reintroduced to the herd until 3 days after treatment when they are healthy and the antibiotic has cleared out of their system. We test all loads of milk for Beta-Lactam residues, which is a broad spectrum antibiotic group used in dairy farms. In the very rare case that residual antibiotic is found in a load of milk, it is rejected and the farmer pays for the entire load.

Fresh Local Milk – Our cheese plants are located within a 30 mile radius of most of the farmers that supply us with milk. Typically, the milk received in the morning is made into cheese the very same day (unless the plant is closed for Sunday or a holiday).

With modern means of refrigeration, the life of milk can be extended for several days, but for all cheeses, especially fresh cheeses such as Mascarpone or Fresh Mozzarella, the freshest milk produces the best cheese. Nothing beats fresh milk for a nice clean flavor in cheese. When using fresh milk for aged cheeses such as Parmesan or Provolone, you will get more depth and nuances of flavor than when using milk that has been refrigerated and stored for several days.

Raw Milk
FDA allows the use of unpasteurized raw milk for making cheeses that are aged longer than 60 days.

At BelGioioso, we use raw milk for our Parmesan (aged 10 months), American Grana (aged 18 Months), Romano (aged 5 months), Asiago (aged 5 months) and Sharp Provolone (aged 7 months).

It is not safe to drink or consume raw milk directly from cows because it may contain germs such as E. Coli, Listeria and Salmonella that can cause serious diseases like brucellosis, among others. These germs can be present in any farm including certified organic farms.

In the past, people used to boil milk before drinking. Boiling at 212°F makes it safe but unfortunately also kills some of the nutrients and changes the flavor.

In 1864, French scientist Louis Pasteur discovered that heating milk at around 161°F would kill the bad bacteria while preserving most of the vitamins and nutrients. One of the most common modern methods for pasteurization of milk is HTST (High Temperature Short Time) which heats milk up to 161°F for at least 15 seconds.

The aging of the cheese has a very similar effect to pasteurization, which is why cheese aged more than 60 days can be made with unpasteurized milk. Aging preserves most of the flavor nuances of aged cheeses.

Gluten Free
All BelGioioso cheeses are naturally gluten free.

Notice we said naturally? That’s right, there is NO gluten in natural cheeses. Gluten comes from wheat, rye, and barley, which are not ingredients in cheese!

Vegetarian Cheeses
Made with non-animal enzymes/rennet.

Our vegetarian cheeses are:

  • Asiago Fresco™
  • Burrata
  • Crescenza-Stracchino™
  • Fontina
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Fresh Mozzarella Braids
  • Fresh Mozzarella Curd
  • Smoked Fresh Mozzarella
  • Impastata
  • Italico™
  • Mascarpone
  • Tiramisù Mascarpone
  • Crema di Mascarpone™
  • Ricotta con Latte®
  • Ricotta Salata
  • Vegetarian Parmesan

Our cheeses still use fresh milk that comes from cows. A purely vegan cheese doesn’t exist, but different types of rennets can be used. We exclusively use a non-animal rennet for our vegetarian cheeses.

Kosher
Some BelGioioso cheeses are certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council or Orthodox Union.

Our certified Kosher cheeses are:

  • Mascarpone
  • Crema di Mascarpone™
  • Tiramisù Mascarpone
  • Fresh Mozzarella Slicing Loaf
  • Ricotta Salata
  • Smoked Fresh Mozzarella
  • Ricotta con Latte®
  • Impastata

The consumer’s perception is that Kosher is healthier or produced with more stringent quality standards. That perception is totally false. A Kosher certification only guarantees two things: first, that no rennet derived from animals is used for the coagulation of the milk (only rennet derived from vegetable or microbial sources can be used); and second, at the moment of adding the rennet to the milk, a Rabbi must be present. Cheeses that are made by direct acidification (without rennet) such as Ricotta and Mascarpone do not need the presence of a Rabbi, but still require the manufacturer to be certified. A fee is required for Kosher certification.

Award Winning
Throughout the years, BelGioioso has set the standard for excellence.

We have been presented with over 170 awards from the World Cheese Championship, the American Cheese Society and the U.S. Cheese Championship, just to name a few.

Awards are a nice source of pride for the cheesemakers and Master Cheesemakers, but they are by no means a warranty of being the best in the market. Many other companies have hundreds of awards as we do, even when they don’t make cheeses as good as ours on a consistent basis.

Keep Refrigerated
All BelGioioso cheeses are made with fresh, natural ingredients, so refrigeration is necessary.

Refrigeration is a regulation from the government. Cheese that has a high moisture content (Fresh Mozzarella) kept for long periods at room temperature will tend to lose its shape and water content. For aged cheeses, refrigeration will slow down the aging process. For best flavor all cheeses should be consumed at room temperature.

Best By Dates
At BelGioioso, we do shelf life studies to estimate how many days the cheese will be good from the day of manufacturing.

Best by dates are required by the government. Once a package is opened, the best by date no longer applies.

In reality there are many factors that can shorten the shelf life of a product, such as high temperature or lack of refrigeration. A leaking or open package, or a cheese that has been contaminated, will also affect the best by date.

Usually there is no risk in tasting a cheese that is past the best by date, but the flavor might not be the same. Packaging plays a different role in some cheeses. Fresh Mozzarella will eventually start to ferment past the best by date even in a perfectly sealed package, but our Parmesan that has a best by date of 365 days will get better over time. There is a possibility that the package could fail over the year, but even then the cheese will be fine.

All Natural Cups
BelGioioso has introduced a new line of All Natural Cups. NO additives, NO fillers, NO preservatives...just cheese.

Our selection of shredded, grated and shaved cheese will please even the most discerning consumer.

When you grate, shred, or shave cheeses, the contact of the cheese with air increases and it can easily mold. This is not dangerous, but it doesn’t look good and also affects the flavor. In order to prevent mold, manufacturers can use a naturally occurring antifungal like natamycin, or potassium sorbate as a mold inhibitor. Another common practice is to add cellulose (a plant fiber) to prevent caking and lumping. Some producers also use corn flour filler which will also reduce the cost.

No Added Gums or Fillers
Many Ricotta and Mascarpone cheeses in the market have added preservatives, gums and fillers. Our cheeses do not.

Our Ricotta con Latte® and Mascarpone cheeses are free from preservatives, gums and fillers by using the freshest milk and state of the art packaging.

The main purpose of gums and carrageenan is to keep the moisture together (to not let the water come out), as temperature variations will affect the water retention in a cheese. Gums are not a traditional ingredient in cheese making and they will change the flavor of the cheese.

Are BelGioioso Cheeses Organic?
The short answer is no. Why?

We don’t believe there are health benefits to certifying our cheeses as organic. In the market, there are good and bad organic products being sold. A good manufacturing practice is more of an indication of a good cheese, but being certified organic is a guarantee of higher prices, not of a better or healthier product.

Are BelGioioso Cows Grass Fed?
Yes, but not exclusively.

The cows that supply our milk are fed a nutritionally rich and varied diet throughout the year, consisting of grass when the weather permits but also hay, alfalfa and corn to meet their nutritional requirements. This is a natural cycle of the seasons – cows like the cool weather and don’t have access to grass all year long, and even though we take our cows’ happiness very seriously, happy cows don’t make good cheese, happy cheesemakers make good cheese!

Handling Tips and Storage Recommendations
BelGioioso storage recommendations by cheese type.

The best by date refers only to unopened packages. Opening a package exposes the cheese to air and creates a potential for contamination or mold development to occur. Always wash your hands before handling cheese and use clean utensils. Once opened, try to consume our cheeses promptly. However, we understand that this is not always possible and the following are BelGioioso storage recommendations by cheese type:

Fresh Mozzarella - Fior di Latte (Packaged in water cups)
Remove lid, gently open seal with a knife and drain liquid. Remove desired amount of product from cup with a clean utensil and leave the remaining cheese inside the cup. Replace lid and refrigerate immediately. Best enjoyed within 1 to 2 days after opening. Freezing is possible, but we do not recommend freezing Fresh Mozzarella.

Fresh Mozzarella (Flexible package without water/Thermoformed)
Open package, slice and remove desired amount of product. Keep remaining product in original packaging and seal with plastic wrap. Best enjoyed within 3 to 4 days after opening. Freezing is possible, but we do not recommend freezing Fresh Mozzarella.

Mascarpone, Crema di Mascarpone™ and Tiramisù Mascarpone
If using only a portion, peel back the protective film only a small amount and use a clean utensil to spoon out the quantity of cheese you will need. Consume at the time of opening for optimum quality. Refrigerate any remaining product in original cup and enjoy within 3 to 5 days. We do not recommend freezing any variety of BelGioioso Mascarpone.

BelGioioso Mascarpone is made with natural ingredients and no preservatives, so if the cheese is exposed to bacteria from your hands or used utensils, there is a good chance mold will grow on the cheese. Return Mascarpone to refrigeration as soon as you are done with it.

Burrata
Handmade and packaged in water to ensure maximum freshness and texture while maintaining shelf life. Remove lid, gently open seal with a knife and drain liquid. Remove desired amount of product from cup with a clean utensil and leave the remaining cheese inside the cup. Replace lid and refrigerate immediately. Best enjoyed within 1 to 2 days after opening. We do not recommend freezing Burrata.

To portion Burrata, the best tool is a spoon.

Ricotta con Latte®
Made with no preservatives, gums or stabilizers, each small batch is made to order, guaranteeing freshness. Remove lid and peel back protective film. A little water separation on the surface is natural, you can drain it or stir it in. It is caused by the absence of any stabilizers or fillers in our cheese. This assures a cleaner and all natural flavor superior to any other product. For best flavor, once seal is broken consume within 3 to 5 days.

Sliced Cheeses
After initial opening, return remaining cheese to original package and refrigerate. Consume within 3-4 days after opening. Unopened BelGioioso sliced cheeses may be frozen for up to 60 days. Thaw frozen product in refrigerator before consuming. Consume thawed sliced cheese within 3 to 4 days.

Grated, Shaved, Shredded and Crumbled Cheeses
After initial opening, consume within 3 to 5 days. You can freeze remaining product in original cup to prevent contamination or molding. Unopened cups of BelGioioso cheeses may be frozen for up to 60 days.

Crumbly Gorgonzola Wedge
Remove plastic wrapper and open foil. Seal any remaining product in the original foil or with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to 1 week.

CreamyGorg® Wedge
Remove plastic wrapper and open gold foil. Thinly slice off the rind before serving. In order to reduce waste, the best method is to remove the bottom rind as thinly as possible from the entire wedge. Seal any remaining product in the original foil or with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to 1 week.