At Cheese we pursue the pleasure of knowledge, as well as the pleasure of taste. Beyond the hundreds of cheeses on offer through the event, there are opportunities to learn and to discover through discussion and debate.
Cheese is also hosting conferences every day, so spare an hour or two to hear some expert opinions on the big issues in cheese: is drinking milk really essential for our bone health? Why is raw milk such an important issue? What are the ideal conditions for dairy livestock?
We have a selection of four conferences, one per day, so you can get out of the crowds for a bit and inform yourself, before indulging in the next platter.
1. The State of Raw Milk
This year, Cheese will accept only raw milk cheeses, featuring “The State of Raw Milk” as its main theme. In many parts of the world, consumers still avoid raw milk dairy products, either by choice or by law, because of health concerns.
The goal of Cheese this year is to make a clear statement on the issue: that raw milk is essential for artisan cheese making, and choosing raw milk is a political act; it means preserving the biodiversity of cheese and supporting small-scale producers.
In essence, raw milk is milk “as is”; full of microorganisms that reflect the land, provide a unique character to each cheese, and preserve the nutritional value of milk. When milk is pasteurized, the applied heat kills the bacterial flora, and reduces diversity, standardizing taste. Consumers then have great difficulty in perceiving the sensory differences that arise from the breeding conditions of the animals, such as their feed.
In the context of this conference on the State of Raw Milk, a Slow Cheese Award will be given to the protagonists in the world of cheese for their passion, dedication and commitment in the search for quality, consistent with Slow Food’s principles of good, clean and fair.
2. To Raise Animals, or to Live With Them?
If the animals are happy, we are happy. Stress is a major concern that affects dairy cows, but it also causes a decrease in the quality and quantity of milk, therefore resulting in low-quality cheese.
When it comes to milk production, we often picture cows grazing on wide-open green grass, and tend to ignore the dark side of the intensive dairy livestock industry. In fact, dairy livestock suffer greatly from mastitis, heat stress and lack of space.
But there are alternatives: producers who work in balance with local animal breeds (even though they are low-yielding), and still produce high quality cheese – such as Slow Food Presidium dairy breeds.
If animal welfare issues concern you, this conference will be a great occasion to learn about the influences of breeding conditions on the quality of cheese. Another one is, Good Milk Comes From Good Grass, to be held on the same day.
3. Migrant Milks
Over the past two decades, thousands of migrants have moved to central and northern Italy and gained the necessary skills to work in high-quality cheese production. As young Italians move away from agricultural labor to white-collar jobs, young migrants have been taking over the production of classic Italian cheeses. As they get better at making cheese, they also earn better incomes than many of the low-skill jobs typically associated with migrants.
Conferences regarding migrant issues are a regular at Slow Food events. At this conference we will cover the situation for migrants working in dairy across the country, starting with the dairy farms of the Po Valley in Piedmont.
4. Milk, Cheese and Health
Do we really need to drink milk every day to have strong bones? Are fatty cheese and butter bad for your health? Is it better to choose low-fat milk over whole? No, no and no.
What we think is good for our health may actually not be. Expert opinion can guide us around controversial topics and “facts” that are often treated vaguely in the media, and need clarification.
In this conference, we will examine and discredit the lies that were sold to us in the past decades by the multinational food industry, and provide a more rounded, holistic perspective.