Since its first edition in 1997, Cheese has always been an event enlivened by debates on environmental, agricultural and food issues. Visitors have been able to tackle these issues head-on through tastings and interactions with small-scale producers whose cheeses are not commonly available. At Cheese, everyone can participate in direct dialog with cheesemakers and herders and in discussions with experts in the sector.
Over the years, many advances have been made in the battle for raw milk. Until a few years ago, hyper-hygienic legislation in Northern European and North American countries made life very difficult for small-scale producers who did not want to abandon their traditions. Today raw milk is recognized as essential to gastronomic quality, thanks in part to the work of Slow Food and the campaign launched at Cheese. The public has begun to be able to identify extraordinary cheeses, connecting them directly to their place of origin. Only raw milk guarantees a local supply, natural processing methods and the valuing of native breeds.
The dairy sector still has many challenges to face, and Cheese 2011 will be focusing particularly on two:
1. What future is there for young people who want to dedicate themselves to artisanal crafts? During Cheese, one of Bra’s squares will be renamed the Piazza della Resistenza Casearia, the “Cheese Resistance Piazza”. It will serve as a platform for young producers from Italian Presidia, who have chosen to overcome difficulties by concentrating on quality. They’ll be presenting rare products at risk of extinction and asking Cheese visitors for their support.
2. Labeling today means that a cheese supposedly contains just three ingredients: milk, rennet, salt. Cheese calls on producers to go further and describe the other factors that turn an ordinary dairy product into a real cheese. We want labels that narrate quality, in which breeds are a fundamental distinctive factor and not just an element of production, in which the cheesemaker becomes the protagonist through his or her choices, in which the production place is related to the pastures and animal diet and in which the consumer becomes a co-producer by understanding and sharing the process.
These issues will be the guiding thread of the activities that flank the market at Cheese: the Taste Workshops, the Dinner Dates and the educational activities for children and grown-ups. Events can already be booked online here:
In the 34 Taste Workshops held this year, key figures from the dairy production chain will be joining Slow Food experts to lead tastings.