Natural is possible
Cheese is made with just three ingredients—milk, rennet, and salt—and yet the world is home to over 2,000 types of cheese, all with different shapes, colors, and flavors.
The most important difference, however, is between industrial cheeses—which are disconnected from their production area and made from pasteurized milk and industrial starter cultures—and artisanal cheeses.
Differences among industrial cheeses are the result of technology, marketing, and packaging.
But the diversity of artisanal cheeses comes from variations in landscapes and pastures, from raw milk, from local breeds, and from the skill of herders and cheesemakers.
Slow Food has been working for a long time to save this diversity, which could easily disappear under the pressure of industry, the market, and restrictive food safety regulations that are ill suited to the needs and contexts of small-scale producers.
Slow Food’s first major battle brought visibility and value back to raw milk. But there is so much more still to do: defending fragile areas, like the mountains; giving dignity to important occupations, like livestock herding; saving breeds at risk of extinction; promoting farming systems that respect the environment and animal welfare; and adding value to cheeses made without the use of industrial starter cultures.
Slow Food has catalogued around 500 cheeses in the Ark of Taste, and with the Presidia it has united thousands of herders and cheesemakers to save over 100 traditional cheeses in more than 50 countries around the world.
The most important international event on this topic is Cheese (Bra, September 20-23, 2019), a biennial celebration of the best raw milk cheeses from around the world, and the producers, herders, and affineurs who give us the opportunity to discover and savor them. The defense of natural cheeses has become the hallmark of this event.