Once again in 2009, the city of Bra transformed itself into an enormous workshop of ideas, debates, tastings, educational activities and markets. Since its beginnings in 1997, Cheese has changed consumers' perception of the world of cheese, turning the spotlight onto the diversity of artisanal production: a sector rich in opportunities but also rife with issues and contradictions.
One of the battles that Cheese has won and continues to work on is the rehabilitation of raw milk's reputation among consumers, confirming it as a necessary element for a link to the local territory and sensory quality in cheeses. The campaign for raw milk dates back to the very first edition of the event.
Issues linked to the presence of GMOs in animal feed are highly urgent and topical. It is not commonly known that 90% of genetically modified organisms currently imported into Europe are used for feed. This means that every year 20 million tons of GMOs enter our food chain, with consumers left uninformed and deprived of choice.
It is important that the crucial impact of livestock-farming methods on the final product must be better understood, particularly Alpine summer pasturing, farming in parks and transhumance (seasonal migration).
The figure of the herder is at risk of disappearing, with the number of herders falling 90% in the last 30 years in Italy because of a the lack of rules and regulations protecting the trade as well as tough living conditions and low earnings.
The abandonment of pastureland has serious negative repercussions for the environment and mountain economies with a resulting deterioration in the local territory and the loss of a product with unique sensory qualities which cannot be replicated by industrial farming.
The debate at Cheese 2009 also concerned the DOP (protected denomination of origin) and IGP (protected geographical indication) systems. On the one hand they help safeguard typical products, but they also risk ignoring small-scale producers who might not be able to afford the certification costs. Cheese promotes and protects the most authentic DOP-certified cheeses produced in difficult conditions.
On the topic of biodiversity, this year the event focused on the question of enzymes added during cheesemaking. Today milk is subjected to strict food-safety regulations and is low in native bacterial flora, so standardized laboratory-made artificial enzymes are used. This practice represents one of the most widespread and little-known homogenizations of taste, leading to a progressive flattening of sensory qualities. Cheese promotes the production of milk or whey starter cultures directly in the dairy, preserving the local microflora and so also each cheese's original characteristics.