During the summer months there are a number of international cheese festivals. Every two years, the biggest festival is held in the tiny town of Bra in northwestern Italy. The event is known simply as “Cheese” and it brings producers from all over the world. For this year’s festival the theme was “A Journey to Mountain Pastures” and it highlighted cheeses and the producers who maintain mountain traditions.
During the festival we had the opportunity to sample some unique raw milk cheeses that are not available in the U.S., and also cheeses from places as diverse as South Africa and Iceland. This reminded me that cheese is key in millions of people’s diets and the diversity responds to the unique capacity of cheese to be many things.
Displays included fresh, hard, aged, small, and very large cheeses from all over the world. This variety was exhilarating, but it was even more interesting to notice that over 70% of the producers choose to use unpasteurized milk. Raw milk is what sustains the diversity and at times prevents the commodiﬁcation of many styles.
We are lucky to still have this diversity, especially when in other parts of the food system we are quickly losing heirloom varieties. Cheese producers worldwide are resisting the push to make more commercial styles. However, economic pressures are intensifying and soon, if the market does not demand raw milk cheeses and if regulators force pasteurization on us, many producers may have to make the hard decision to break with tradition.
If you, like me, care about this diversity and rural livelihoods, I invite you to take our 2015 Raw Milk Cheese Consumption and Attitudes Survey. We will use the results to address the FDA request for comments on raw milk cheese. It will also help us understand how to better educate people about the beneﬁts of traditional cheesemaking techniques.
If you are interested in other cheese festivals you can check out our page in Facebook to learn about upcoming events. October is American Cheese Month and there are three fantastic events in Boston:
October 3 – Let’s Talk About Cheese
October 11 – Massachusetts Cheese Festival
October 12 / 17 – Curds | Cultures | Communities Restaurant Week
Photos: Top (clockwise from top left) Cave aged cheese by Marayn de Bastassac (France), Semi-hard and Hard cheeses from France, Parmigiano Reggiano wheels produced by the Consorzio Vacche Rosse, Irish selection from Sheridans Cheesemongers. Side: Two types of Robiola di Roccaverano DOP made in Italy, the famous Gjetost from Norway with its caramel color.
~ Carlos Yescas, Oldways Cheese Coalition