The "Health" section of Lonely Planet Mongolia states you can get Brucellosis from unboiled milk or homemade cheese, and that you can get TB from unpasteurized milk, but that cheese and boiled milk is safe with regards to TB.

Are dairy products offered to tourists typically processed in some form or other? (Asking as someone who prefers processed dairy products, rather than as a "raw milk" fan)

Also, is airag safe to drink, at least from an infectious disease perspective?

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    I didn't really see dairy products "offered to tourists" though the local markets were full of strange unappetizing dairy products you've never seen before. Then again I didn't really go to places offering things to tourists. People in my hostel did offer me one type of hard curd thing and I didn't mind it. I believe I also had a few mass produced airags from supermarkets. I don't recall seeing raw milk there, but I was only in the capital and the tiny cities between it and the Chinese border. Commented May 17, 2015 at 11:34
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    "Processed" isn't a very useful term. The process of extracting milk from a cow can be considered "process," after all. If that's not processing, then putting it into a bag/jar/can/box certainly is. If you mean to ask if it's been pasteurized, perhaps ask that specifically?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 15:01
  • @Flimzy in the body of the question, I mention pasteurization and turning of milk into cheese, but wanted to keep all options open.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 22:04
  • @AndrewGrimm: Yes, I saw mentions of both, which is why I asked the question. Your posted question is faar too broad, IMO. Pasteurization and turning milk into cheese are pretty much completely unrelated--in terms of process, and in terms of the health effects on the food. Cheesemaking does not kill pathogens (except for long-aged cheeses. USDA requires 3 months aging--many homemade cheeses aren't aged at all). If you leave a glass of milk outside overnight during the summer, the next morning you'll have semi-solid cheese that might kill you. Would you count that as "processed"?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 22:16
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    @MarkMayo: Let me just say I've accidentally tasted "cheese" made that way, and it didn't taste dissimilar to some other commercially-produced pungent cheeses I've tasted.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


I don't particularly recall from my time in Mongolia, but I say "embrace the local stuff" when I'm travelling, and if I get sick, so be it (it's unlikely anyway).

Lost in the Mongolia Grocery Store, however, is a post on some of the foods you might find in a Mongolia supermarket, which is where I assume you'll be shopping if you're after milk "offered to tourists".

From their post:

Dairy is the other staple of the Mongolian diet. The trick is to figure out what, exactly, is inside the package — early on I bought sweetened yogurt instead of cream. Milk comes in different versions: UHT (Ultra High Temperature, meaning no refrigeration is needed) packs, “regular” and reconstituted from powder, with fat levels of 4% or 3.2%. I don’t care about the fat content but I do NOT prefer powdered milk. Other packages…are they butter? Cheese? Flavored yogurt? Some other thing? And there’s ahruul, the dried yogurt...

Give the kumis / airag a shot though, it's an acquired taste... ;)


Any milk I had while in the Mongolian countryside was boiled first.

Also, is airag safe to drink, at least from an infectious disease perspective?

The following suggests that airag can give you diarrhoea:

The national drink of Mongolia is also a staple in celebrations, though it's slightly less alcoholic and more...unique. Known as Airag, this is a summer seasonal drink made from fermented mare's milk. It is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. At first, it feels like you're drinking milk that's gone bad, but rest assured, 3 million Mongolians can't be wrong, it is drinkable. Be sure to get a small amount or ask for a taste before you get a whole cup, drinking too much, when you're not used to it, might give you diarrhoea.

Ironically, I didn't get diarrhoea from drinking airag in Mongolia, but got it a few months later after having lassi in an Indian restaurant while on holiday in Orange in my home state of NSW, Australia. At least with airag, if you're old enough to drink it, you're old enough to hopefully not get killed by it.

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    Red Pepper or Thar on Summer St? ;)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 9:32

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