Slow Food’s Slow Cheese campaign culminates with Cheese, the biennial event dedicated to milk in all its shapes and forms, which draws attention to the current challenges and successes of the dairy sector.
The world has been losing a dramatic amount of cheeses, animal breeds, pastures, herders, skills and ancient knowledge over the past few decades. Losing a product means that our food culture and the freedom to choose what we eat are at stake.
One problem the dairy sector has to face is that the use of raw milk in cheesemaking is restricted in many countries. Our fight to promote it is largely based on the notion that only raw milk can give cheeses the specific flavors that create a distinct taste that tells the story of a place and its characteristics. Pasteurization has led to the standardization of dairy products: The heating process eliminates the bacteria that contribute to the flavor and distinct characteristics of a cheese, and the artificially re-introduced bacteria for pasteurized milk cheese production are the same worldwide, making industrial cheeses lack territorial character and taste identical from Japan to Australia to Sweden. Prohibiting the use of raw milk thus narrows down the variety of dairy products and slowly suffocates distinct tastes belonging to a specific territory or identity of a community.
In the United States, for example, all raw milk cheese, whether produced nationally or imported, must be aged 60 days or more, precluding the production of fresh raw milk cheeses. This law is currently being challenged and discussed within the U.S. government and many raw milk cheese producers are working together to support the continued production of raw milk cheese in the U.S.
For more information on the legislation of raw milk in the US, please visit: https://www.slowfood.com/slowcheese/eng/53/united-states
Just as much as the type of milk influences the distinct taste of a cheese, animal welfare and the diet of livestock impact the milk quality and thus the character of a cheese. Animals that are free to graze will inevitably produce better milk – in their natural habitat, animals will naturally eat the plants they need to stay healthy. The same is true for how animals are treated. Animals should be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, disease, fear and distress: all factors that negatively impact the quality of the raw milk. Part of the Slow Cheese Campaign is thus to inform about the factors that influence the quality of the milk used for cheese production, so that consumers can make informed decisions.
Globalization is suppressing choice. We must fight back and keep our rights to choose what to eat, how to regulate the rhythms of our life and how to work. This is exactly what herders, cheesemakers and artisans do when they reject the shortcuts of modernity. Instead they persistently continue to make cheeses and other foods with respect for nature, tradition and taste, even when it involves hard work, risk, controversy and isolation. Slow Food and its partners have already achieved many positive results and concessions to be able to save many traditional and artisanally produced dairy products from disappearing, but there is still a long way to go for other dairy products all over the world.
For more information on the Slow Cheese Campaign and regulations on the production of milk all over the world, please visit:
Cheese 2013 Press Office
Slow Food International: