Butter and cheese… and health

17 September 2021

Pollone is a small alpine village near Biella, in the shadow of Mount Mucrone. It’s the gateway to Sacred Mount of Oropa, a UNESCO World Heritage sanctuary.

If you ever find yourself nearby, visit the sanctuary with its forest chapels and monumental cemetery, as well as all the surrounding nature. And don’t miss Marta Foglio’s restaurant, Foodopia, which opened its doors last February in an extremely difficult time for the hospitality sector.

“I started with food education, but I soon realized it was necessary to help people put into practice the advice I was giving them. So I decided to do some culinary training: it was the best way to communicate what I teach,” Marta explains. So it was that in 2018 Foodopia opened as a delicatessen where clients could buy prepared dishes and the ingredients used by the chef, which come from “local farms that respect the land, people, animals and plants.” That goes for butter and cheese, too.

Butter and cheese: how much should we eat?

Upper Elvo Raw Milk Butter, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Oliver Migliore

Marta Foglio’s work is focused on the relationship between food and health, a dynamic famously summarized by Hippocrates with the dictum: “Let your food be your medicine, and let your medicine be your food.” Marta began with a course in naturopathy and food education, then studied for two years at the Joia Academy, a school of vegetarian cuisine in Milan where she was taught by Pietro Leemann and met Franco Berrino, leading her to study the theme of diets which carry a lower risk of cancer. She then began collaborating with the Edo Tempia Foundation, an association in Biella which works to prevent cancer.

Marta Foglio is the perfect figure with whom to discuss a long-demonized food: butter. A food which has strong traditions in mountain areas, and which has numerous gastronomic uses. As Marta says: “Butter was demonized in the past as it is now, and dairy products in general do not enjoy a great reputation in terms of health. However, in the field of oncology there’s no evidence against any specific dairy products, while there is for the excessive consumption of animal protein.” The first thing to do is think about how much we eat.

Butter and cheese: how to choose them

Pezzata Rossa d’Oropa Cattle, Ark of Taste

Marta continues: “Another important element is the quality. When we choose butter or cheese we should try to understand with what kind of milk it has been produced. The milk of a Pezzata Rossa d’Oropa cow that has grazed on pasture and the milk of a Friesian cow that’s spent it’s life in a barn. Pasture-raised cheeses are not unhealthy; they contain elements that are beneficial for our health.” Milk from a pasture-raised cow has impressive biochemical properties: the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is between 1 and 2, and it’s rich in numerous other important components like linoleic acid, vitamins and antioxidants. In other words, “if milk is healthy, in that it comes from cows that have eaten naturally and not been given antibiotics, then the cheese and butter made with this milk are also healthy.” We can find evidence for this in the Upper Elvo Raw Milk Butter, a Slow Food Presidium that Marta uses in her kitchen.

What Marta invites us to do is think about food as a form of culture. “If you switch from industrial to artisanal products, made with respect for nature and animal welfare, the difference is enormous. This means learning more about the places of production, restoring value to food, and paying a fair price for it.” And of course, in the dishes and cheeses offered at Foodopia there’s a wide range of these artisanal products: the butter, the Sordevolo toma cheese used both as an ingredient in the polenta and sold on its own, goat milk cheeses from the Cervo valley…

by Carlo Petrini, published in La Repubblica Torino, September 10

Taste Workshop on butter

Marta is a protagonist at a Taste Workshop on Sunday, September 19 at Cheese, the international festival dedicated to artisanal dairy products organized Slow Food in Bra from September 17 to 20.

Our tips

Where to eat

  • Foodopia, Pollone
  • Osteria due cuori, Biella
  • La taverna del gufo, Occhieppo Inferiore

Where to sleep

  • B&B Villa Tavallini, Pollone
  • Foresteria della Trappa, Sordevolo

Plan your trip:

Check out the itinerary of Slow Food Travel dedicated to the mountains of Biella