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Ruminant management and sensory characteristics of cheeses

INRA Prod. Anim., 18(1), 49-62.


1 INRA, Unité de Recherches sur les Herbivores, F-63122 Theix

2 INRA, Unité de Recherches Laitières et Génétique Appliquée, F-78352 Jouy-en-Josas
3 Istituto Zootecnico e Caseario per la Sardegna, I-07040 Olmedo

This review summarises the last 10 years of knowledge established on the relationships between management of the animals (genetic, physiology, feeding) and sensory quality of cheese. In the production of full fat raw milk cheese, the cow’s breed can modify the texture of cheeses because of differences in fat in dry matter content, due to variations in the fat/protein ratio in milk. Within a same breed, large differences in texture and taste were observed between cheeses issued from milk differing by the genetic variant of β-casein (in dairy cows) or αs1-casein (in goats). Except in very early or late lactation, the physiological stage had no significant effect on cheese sensory characteristics. In contrast, mastitis has a well known negative impact on cheese sensory properties. Feeding dairy cows or goats with corn silage by comparison with hay or grass silage lead to whiter cheeses and sometimes to differences in flavour. Conserving grass as silage, by comparison with hay, has no important effect on cheese sensory characteristics, except on colour, being more yellow with grass silage. Conversely, major differences in sensory characteristics were observed between cheeses made with milk produced by cows fed winter diets (based on hay and grass silage) or turned to pasture in the spring. Several recent experiments showed a significant effect of grass’ botanical composition on cheese texture and flavour. These effects are due to the presence in milk of specific molecules or structures directly induced by feeding (carotenes, terpenes) or produced by the animals (plasmin, fatty acids, casein micellar structures) according to their genetic or physiological characteristics or under the effect of specific diets.

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