Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Dairy Products Technology


Dairy Science


Phillip S. Tong


String cheese, a Mozzarella cheese, has the unique ability to string in fibrous strands when pulled apart. Graders judge string cheese by its stringy texture; samples with copious amounts of string are awarded high ratings. But just as the texture of natural cheeses softens with time, the stringy texture of string cheese can diminish with age too.

Age related softening in cheese is due primarily to an important biochemical event known as proteolysis, which is attributed to inherent milk proteinases, residual coagulant activity, and enzymes from the lysis of starter culture microorganisms. It is hypothesized that a post manufacture heat treatment of string cheese could inactivate these proteolytic enzymes and slow or eliminate proteolysis during storage. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to determine the effects of a post manufacture thermal dip treatment on proteolytic activity in packaged, commercial string cheese. Proteolysis was examined qualitatively by Urea-PAGE electrophoresis, quantitatively by measuring percentage of water-soluble nitrogen (%WSN), and by using a scoring method to analyze stringy texture during refrigerated storage.

Fresh, commercial string cheese was sourced on two separate occasions and treated six days after manufacture. Treatment consisted of dipping the packaged cheese sticks in water baths at 55°C, 75°C, and 95°C for 30 and 60 seconds. String cheese that did not undergo treatment served as the control. Treated and control cheeses were stored at 4°C until sampling for Urea-PAGE, WSN extraction, and texture analysis on days 1, 11, 22, 29, 49, 91, and 172 after treatment.

The degree of β-CN breakdown was not observed to be different between all treatment levels throughout the storage period. This was not expected since Mozzarella cheese exposed to a higher temperature should have more plasmin activity than that of cheese exposed to a lower temperature. There was a trend of slightly more intact αs1-CN in the most severely treated string cheese (95°C for 60s) when compared to the control at the final time point of the study. This suggests the possibility of successful inactivation of residual coagulant, intracellular enzymes, or other proteolytic enzymes in the string cheese at this treatment. However, only storage time had a significant effect on %WSN (p

The research completed in this study provides insight of the proteolytic effects from a thermal treatment process applied post string cheese manufacture. Though relationships between the treatments to the extent of secondary proteolysis and stringy texture were not significant, it was still found that there was more intact αs1-CN due to one of the treatments. These results suggest that it is possible that the use of other heat treatment parameters, longer storage period, or a combination of the two could show a significant relationship between thermal treatment and proteolysis. These results also suggest that further work to improve shelf life of string cheese or other cheese varieties through the concept of a post manufacture heat treatment may be promising.