The shelf life of cheese can vary from a few weeks to multiple years depending on its composition and how it is packaged. In general, high moisture cheese varieties have a shelf life of only a few weeks, although processing innovations, such as hot-pack cream cheese can extend this. Low-moisture, hard cheeses (like Parmesan) have a shelf life that can range from 10 months to several years. The accompanying table outlines some other examples. So, while the type of cheese has the greatest impact on shelf life, two factors limit a cheese’s shelf life potential: development of microbial-related defects and deterioration of the expected texture/flavor.
In order to extend the shelf life of a cheese, it’s important to first have a clear understanding of the issues that affect the product’s viability. Of course, starting with high-quality milk is paramount in manufacturing a product that retains its quality on the shelf. Outside of that, however, each concern requires a slightly different solution. By determining the area of concern, you will be better able to find a solution and extend your cheese’s shelf life.