Small-Scale Cheese Production and Europe

At Cheese 2015, the issue of how to comply with European hygiene regulations while protecting local knowledge and traditions will take the spotlight

Tackling the issues of hygiene and flexibility for small-scale producers in the Food Hygiene Package is a topical issue given the plight of many small-scale food producers when it comes to overly stringent application of the rules. How can a traditional raw milk cheese be protected, while at the same time ensure consumer safety?

This issue will be discussed at Cheese 2015 (taking place in Bra, Italy, from Friday, September 18 to Monday, September 21) during the conference Small-Scale Cheese Production and Europe, on Monday, September 21 at 3 pm in the Biodiversity House.

The Food Hygiene Package is a community legislation which covers all stages of production, processing, distribution and sale of food intended for human consumption.

However, in some countries—and in particular in those countries applying to join the European Union—small artisanal dairies are being put at risk and forced out of business by the strict application of European food safety standards.

In Turkey and Macedonia, for example, there is a tendency of governments to rush into the implementation of regulations, often without properly comprehending EU directives. This causes small-scale producers to quickly adapt, often sacrificing their product authenticity for a more standardized one that complies with legislation. Traditional cheesemakers are experiencing great difficulties to adapt to the requirements imposed, which involve substantial costs as well as a semi-industrialization of their productions.

As part of an Erasmus Plus project, coordinated by Ardahan University (Turkey), Slow Food Italy is collaborating with the Spanish farmhouse cheese network Que Red (Spain), Slow Food Bitola (Macedonia) and the Bogatepe Association (Turkey). The Erasmus project aims to preserve small-scale artisanal cheese, suggesting guidelines based on a flexible application of the food hygiene regulations that take into account the traditional aspects of cheese production. Through the exchange of good practices, Slow Food wants to demonstrate that small-scale traditional farmers can continue their productions and join the EU with authentic raw milk cheeses that reflect the character and traditions of a nation, as well as being safe for consumers.

The conference will see presentations by Remedios Carrasco, coordinator for Qué Red (Red Española de Queserías de Campo y Artesanas); Angel Nepomuceno, inspector for official health checks in Spain; Emanuela Ceruti, producer and coordinator of the Tuma Macagn Slow Food Presidium; Slow Food Bitola’s Elena Karovska, coordinator for the project Erasmus Plus in Macedonia; and Ilhan Koçulu, producer of Kars Gravyeri, a traditional hard cheese that is produced and consumed widely in eastern Turkey, where dairy cows graze on pastures at an altitude of 1,800 meters. The Kars Gravyeri is now at risk of dying out due to increased mechanization of the cheesemaking process, the decline of native cattle breeds and rigid European Union regulations.  

Among the Turkish cheeses seriously threatened by the restrictive nature of the Community’s rules on food hygiene, at Cheese visitors will also have the chance to discover the Türkmen Saçak, one of the oldest cheeses in the Caucasus.

From Macedonia the Mavrovo Reka Mountain Pasture Cheeses will be present, including Kashkaval made from Shaplaninska sheep’s milk; Bieno Sirenje, a cheese that dates back to the Ottoman Empire; and Belo Sirenje, similar to Greek feta, produced in the green forests of the Mavrovo National Park in Western Macedonia.  The semi-nomadic sheep-breeding and the production of cheese from raw milk in these mountain areas still represent important economic activities, which are directly linked to the cultural identity of this area and should be preserved and promoted in order to invert the worrying trend of depopulation.

Cheese 2015 has been made possible by the support of companies who believe in the future of the quality dairy sector, including the Official Partners: Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano, Lurisia, Pastificio Di Martino and Radeberger Gruppe Italia.

Cheese, the international biennial event organized by the City of Bra and Slow Food, will be held in Bra (Italy) from Friday, September 18 to Monday, September 21, 2015. Dedicated to milk in all its shapes and forms, the event has led to the formation of an international network of cheesemakers and dairy artisans, and is currently in its tenth edition.

For further information, please contact the Slow Food International Press Office:

Paola Nano, +39 329 8321285, [email protected]

Città di Bra: Raffaele Grillo – Elena Martini, +39 0172 438278, [email protected]
 old.slowfood.com –  www.comune.bra.cn.it

Slow Food involves millions of people who follow the philosophy of good, clean and fair food. The network is made up of enthusiasts, chefs, experts, young people, food producers, fishers and academics in over 150 countries. It includes 100,000 Slow Food members worldwide, who belong to 1,500 local chapters. Their membership fee helps to fund the association, and they participate in many locally organized events. The network also includes the 2,000 Terra Madre food communities, who are committed to sustainable, small-scale food production.

 

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