Raw milk and unpasteurized cheeses made from raw milk are illegal in some US states, but many allow people to buy raw milk products in one form or another. As of 2010, consumers could legally buy raw milk products in retail stores in nine states, including California, Arizona, South Carolina, Maine, and Pennsylvania. People can also buy raw milk products directly from farms or as part of a herd share agreement, but all of the products must be "fluid milk products," which doesn't include butter or most cheeses. Unpasteurized cheeses are also legal in most areas as long as they have been stored in a certain way.
Getting Unpasteurized Dairy Products
Unpasteurized cheeses are available one way or another in most areas of the US. Some people bring them in illegally from other countries, while others buy or obtain the cheeses directly from farmers. This is sometimes done through a herd share program, where the consumer purchases a "share" in a cow which goes towards feeding and boarding it, and in exchange, he or she receives products from the cow. Herd share programs are usually only allowed to sell fluid milk products though, which means that participants may only legally be permitted to get unpasteurized milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese from their animal.
Some types of harder cheeses that are unpasteurized are actually available legally in most areas as long as they've been kept under certain conditions. They must have been aged at least 60 days in an environment held at not below 35°F (1°C) — this process makes the cheese more acidic, killing most potential sources of bacterial infection. This process can be used to make harder cheeses, like Parmesan-style cheese. Farmers can generally sell cheeses like this, though in some areas they must have a manufacturing plant license.
The debate about raw milk and unpasteurized cheese comes down to concerns about spreading disease. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) state that most raw milk products are risky to consume because they sometimes carry germs that can spread diseases like tuberculosis. Those on the other side of the debate claim that pasteurizing milk robs it of nutrients and taste. Others advocates feel that it's not the government's place to govern people's choices about what they eat.