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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Associations between the Bacterial Composition of Farm Bulk Milk and the Microbiota in the Resulting Swedish Long-Ripened Cheese

Sun, Li; Hojer, Annika; Johansson, Monika; Saeden, Karin Hallin; Bernes, Gun; Hetta, Marten; Gustafsson, Anders H.; Dicksved, Johan; Lundh, Ase

Abstract

The maturation of a traditional Swedish long-ripened cheese has shown increasing variation in recent years and the ripening time is now generally longer than in the past. While the cheese is reliant on non-starter lactic acid bacteria for the development of its characteristic flavour, we hypothesised that the observed changes could be due to variations in the microbiota composition and number of bacteria in the raw milk used for production of the cheese. To evaluate associations between microbiota in the raw milk and the resulting cheese, three clusters of commercial farms were created to increase variation in the microbiota of dairy silo milk used for cheese production. Cheese production was performed in three periods over one year. Within each period, milk from the three farm clusters was collected separately and transported to the cheese production facility. Following pasteurisation, the milk was processed into the granular-eyed cheese and matured at a dedicated cheese-ripening facility. For each cheese batch, farm bulk and dairy silo milk samples, a starter culture, early process samples and cheese samples from different stages of maturation (7-20 months) were collected and their microbiota characterised using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. The microbiota in the farm bulk milk differed significantly between periods and clusters. Differences in microbiota in dairy silo milk were observed between periods, but not between farm clusters, while the cheese microbiota differed between periods and clusters. The top 13 amplicon sequence variants were dominant in early process samples and the resulting cheese, making up at least 93.3% of the relative abundance (RA). Lactococcus was the dominant genus in the early process samples and, together with Leuconostoc, also dominated in the cheese samples. Contradicting expectations, the RA of the aroma-producing genus Lactobacillus was low in cheese during ripening and there was an unexpected dominance of starter lactic acid bacteria even at the later stages of cheese ripening. To identify factors behind the recent variations in ripening time of this cheese, future studies should address the effects of process variables and the dairy environment.

Keywords

farm and dairy silo milk microbiota; starter and non-starter lactic acid bacteria; Lactobacillus; Lactococcus; cheese ripening

Published in

Foods
2023, Volume: 12, number: 20, article number: 3796
Publisher: MDPI