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Cheese facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Cheese selections in the buffet
Mixed cheeses in the plates
La Fourrière (cheese)
A goat cheese from France
Jez Timms 2016-01-07 (Unsplash)
Blue cheese

Cheese is a type of dairy that comes from milk. There are many types of cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss, and provolone.

Many things affect the form, texture, colour and flavour of a cheese. These include the milk (cow or goat), if the milk has been pasteurized, the amount of butterfat, bacteria and mold in the cheese, how the cheese is made, how much fat is in the cheese, and how old the cheese is. Example for cheese used in a sentence: Todd the dog likes cheese.


Ricotta affumicata della sila
A piece of soft curd cheese, oven-baked to increase shelf life

Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, whether in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East. Earliest proposed dates for the origin of cheesemaking range from around 8000 BCE, when sheep were first domesticated.

The earliest evidence of cheesemaking in the archaeological record dates back to 5500 BCE and is found in what is now Kuyavia, Poland, where strainers coated with milk-fat molecules have been found.

Cheesemaking may have begun by the pressing and salting of curdled milk to preserve it. Early archeological evidence of Egyptian cheese has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. A 2018 scientific paper stated that the world's oldest cheese, dating to approximately 1200 BCE (3200 years before present), was found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

The earliest cheeses were likely quite sour and salty, similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or feta, a crumbly, flavorful Greek cheese. Cheese produced in Europe, where climates are cooler than the Middle East, required less salt for preservation. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their respective flavors. The earliest ever discovered preserved cheese was found in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China, dating back as early as 1615 BCE (3600 years before present).

How cheese is made

Cheese is made using milk. The milk of cows, goats, and sheep are most popular. Buffalo, camel, donkey and even hippopotamus milk can also be used. Cheese makers usually cook the milk in large pots. Most cheeses are acidified by bacteria. This bacteria turns milk sugars into lactic acid.

Salt is added, and a substance from the stomach of young cows called rennet. This curdles the cheese and makes it solid. Some makers do not add rennet, but curdle the cheese in other ways. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are made by fermentation of a fungus called Mucor miehei. Other alternatives use species of the Cynara thistle family.

Other ingredients are added and the cheese is usually aged for a varied length of time.

Classifications of cheese

There are many different ways to classify cheeses. Some ways include:

  • How long the cheese was aged
  • The texture of the cheese. These include Hard, Soft and Softer.
  • How the cheese was made
  • What type of milk was used to make the cheese. This is mainly what animal the milk comes from, such as cows, sheep, and goats. The diet of the animal can also affect the type of cheese made from its milk.
  • How much fat is in the cheese
  • What color the cheese is (common colors are yellow, and white)

There are also man-made foods that some people use instead of cheese. These are called Cheese analogues.

Different types of cheese include:

Nutrition and health

The nutritional value of cheese varies widely. Cottage cheese may consist of 4% fat and 11% protein while some whey cheeses are 15% fat and 11% protein, and triple-crème cheeses are 36% fat and 7% protein. In general, cheese is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of calcium, protein, phosphorus, sodium and saturated fat. A 28-gram (one ounce) serving of cheddar cheese contains about 7 grams (0.25 oz) of protein and 202 milligrams of calcium. Nutritionally, cheese is essentially concentrated milk, but altered by the culturing and aging processes: it takes about 200 grams (7.1 oz) of milk to provide that much protein, and 150 grams (5.3 oz) to equal the calcium, though values for water-soluble vitamins and minerals can vary widely.

Macronutrient content of common cheeses, g per 100 g
Water Protein Fat Carbs
Swiss 37.1 26.9 27.8 5.4
Feta 55.2 14.2 21.3 4.1
Cheddar 36.8 24.9 33.1 1.3
Mozzarella 50 22.2 22.4 2.2
Cottage 80 11.1 4.3 3.4
Vitamin content of common cheeses, DV% per 100 g
A B1 B2 B3 B5 B6 B9 B12 C D E K
Swiss 17 4 17 0 4 4 1 56 0 11 2 3
Feta 8 10 50 5 10 21 8 28 0 0 1 2
Cheddar 20 2 22 0 4 4 5 14 0 3 1 3
Mozzarella 14 2 17 1 1 2 2 38 0 0 1 3
Cottage 3 2 10 0 6 2 3 7 0 0 0 0
Mineral content of common cheeses, DV% per 100 g
Cl Ca Fe Mg P K Na Zn Cu Mn Se
Swiss 2.8 79 10 1 57 2 8 29 2 0 26
Feta 2.2 49 4 5 34 2 46 19 2 1 21
Cheddar 3 72 4 7 51 3 26 21 2 1 20
Mozzarella 2.8 51 2 5 35 2 26 19 1 1 24
Cottage 3.3 8 0 2 16 3 15 3 1 0 14

Nutrient data from Abbreviations: Cl = Choline; Ca = Calcium; Fe = Iron; Mg = Magnesium; P = Phosphorus; K = Potassium; Na = Sodium; Zn = Zinc; Cu = Copper; Mn = Manganese; Se = Selenium.

Cardiovascular disease

National health organizations, such as the American Heart Association, Association of UK Dietitians, British National Health Service, and Mayo Clinic, among others, recommend that cheese consumption be minimized, replaced in snacks and meals by plant foods, or restricted to low-fat cheeses to reduce caloric intake and blood levels of LDL fat, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. There is no high-quality clinical evidence that cheese consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


A number of food safety agencies around the world have warned of the risks of raw-milk cheeses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that soft raw-milk cheeses can cause "serious infectious diseases including listeriosis, brucellosis, salmonellosis and tuberculosis". It is U.S. law since 1944 that all raw-milk cheeses (including imports since 1951) must be aged at least 60 days. Australia has a wide ban on raw-milk cheeses as well, though in recent years exceptions have been made for Swiss Gruyère, Emmental and Sbrinz, and for French Roquefort. There is a trend for cheeses to be pasteurized even when not required by law.

Pregnant women may face an additional risk from cheese; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned pregnant women against eating soft-ripened cheeses and blue-veined cheeses, due to the listeria risk, which can cause miscarriage or harm the fetus.

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See also

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