Seventh Edition of Cheese Inaugurated Today
18 Sep 09
At 4 pm at Bra’s Politeama theater today, the seventh edition of Cheese, the international exhibition of quality cheese, was inaugurated by Bruna Sibille, Mayor of Bra; Mercedes Bresso, President of the Region of Piedmont; Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food; and Luca Zaia, Italy’s Minister for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
The inauguration also served as a prize-giving ceremony to recognize four people for their outstanding contribution to the world of cheese. Awards were presented to Pascale Baudonnel, a producer of geitost cheese in Norway who has brought together a group Norwegian artisan cheesemakers to fight against the government’s forced pasteurization of milk; Livio Garbaccio, a young Piedmontese producer of Macagn cheese who is working to restore mountain pastures; Antonio Rodeghiero, a master of Asiago cheese from the Veneto, who has helped save the tradition of aged Asiago; and 86-year-old Francesco Giolito from Bra, an affineur of the highest caliber who has been involved with Cheese since its very beginnings.
After asking for a minute of silence to remember the six Italian soldiers killed yesterday in Afghanistan, Mayor Bruna Sibille then thanked the citizens of Bra for their willingness to collaborate in the staging of Cheese, saying that it was an important opportunity to bring Bra to international attention, making it a reference point for excellent food.
The regional president, Mercedes Bresso, began by saying that Piedmont was well-known for its wine, but not so much for its cheese, though the dairy sector is an important part of the economy. The region has chosen to aim for quality rather than quantity, she said. “It is not an easy choice, but we believe that in the long term it will pay,” she said. “If we want to have quality, the base must be a proper compensation for agricultural producers. We must recognize that the producers are the bricks with which we can construct the house of quality.”
President Bresso emphasized the importance of traceability in quality, and this theme was also picked up by Carlo Petrini. He first attacked the pasteurization of milk, saying that the campaign for raw milk was a battle for civilization. “Raw-milk cheeses contain the differences in pasture, in the breed of animal, in the farming method. If we eliminate these differences, it would be like pasteurizing our DOCG wines. We would lose all taste, and also the knowledge of producers,” he said. “This undefined milk, without traceability, is an injustice that we can no longer tolerate.”
Like Bresso, he also lamented the poor recompense farmers received for their work, often paid less per liter of milk than it costs to produce. “We must end the dominance of an industrial logic that is destroying agriculture,” he thundered. Cheese, he said, should be labeled with the origin of the milk, the breed of animal, the type of rennet used, and so on. “The more information the more choice for consumers.”
Petrini called for a serious re-evaluation of the issue of raw milk. He cited Bra’s famous sausage, traditionally eaten raw, the Piedmontese specialty raw beef salad, and Japanese sushi made with raw fish. “What is the difference between fish and meat and milk?” he asked. “In Switzerland they give raw milk to children in the schools, and the Swiss seem healthy enough!”
“Often consumers only think about price, while the refrigerator becomes a tomb for wasted food. We must consume less,” he exhorted. “We must stop thinking about production and consumption as two different things.”
Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia was in agreement, saying that a survey of Italians showed that 72% would be willing to spend more on food if they could have certainty about its origins. He also said that 10% of food purchases in the last year were made directly from farmers, and that sales of organic food were also up. “In the absence of traceability, consumers are moving closer to the start of the production chain,” he said. “But there must not be two chains, one for the rich and one for the poor. ” He then launched into an attack on genetically modified foods: “GMO means loss of identity,” he said, “the loss of all our great heritage.”
He also agreed with Petrini on the necessity of reducing food waste. “Every year enough good food is thrown out to feed 600,000 people three meals a day.” We must consume local, seasonal food and waste less, he said.