Cheese 2021 puts animals center stage

13 July 2021

The theme of this year’s edition is Consider the Animals: to discuss the animal kingdom and the variety of connections with human activity, from dairy animals to the microbial world, from bees to all the pollinators who are indispensable for the health of pastures.

Without these animals the great biodiversity of the dairy world which we touch, smell and taste at Cheese couldn’t exist. As such, it’s an important part of human history.

So once again, cheeses are the perfect representatives of a vanguard with its roots in a solid, millennia-old relationship between humans, animals and nature.

Beyond the visible: to understand and safeguard the animal world

Animals Cheese 2021
Sheep of the Shepherds’ Fiore Sardo Presidium, Sardinia. Photo: Alberto Peroli.

Everything you see at Cheese 2021 couldn’t exist without animals. We wouldn’t have milk and cheese. Farming, transhumance, pastures and pastoralism wouldn’t exist either; all these things which we don’t see at Cheese but which we sense through the smell and taste of animal products.

Without animals, the mountains would be a very different world: if they didn’t graze the plants of the pastures the landscape would be less cultivated and less hospitable to human cultures, not least of which agriculture.

Yet if we think of the animal world in relation to cheeses, we can’t stop at cows, sheep or goats. We need to ask ourselves how other living organisms contribute to the long and complicated process which gives us cheese: not just dairy animals, but pollinating insects, and the microorganisms in the soil, like fungi, bacteria and yeasts.

That’s why Cheese 2021 aims to consider the animals in the widest sense, taking into account every lifeform involved in the process that gives us cheeses which reflect the lands they come from. This consideration is a duty, but the act of discovery is a pleasure.

by Serena Milano, General Secretary of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity

Save biodiversity by training your palate: learn to appreciate natural cheeses

natural cheese
Çuç di Mont, Slow Food Presidium, Friuli Venezia Giulia. Photo: Alberto Peroli

It’s not the first we’ve talked about natural cheeses, or fermentation, or lactic bacteria. But this year we’re going a little more pop.

We want to speak to the public, and to help them understand the reasons why we’ve insisted on the importance of natural cheese for years. We want to teach people how to recognize natural cheese when they taste it, and above all to encourage people to choose natural cheese, to demand it.

It’s worth it, I am sure, because a natural cheese and a cheese made with industrial ferments are not the same thing. The flavor, for example, is not comparable: in fresh cheeses the difference is less accentuated because the ferments haven’t had time to develop the aromas, but in aged cheeses there’s a literal abyss: in just 20 days the bacterial flora spreads and multiples giving rise to notable differences in the cheese’s sensory profile.

It’s not just a question of taste: natural cheeses- which are artisanal cheeses made without industrial ferments – are an expression of the place they are made. In other words, they reproduce biodiversity in miniature.

Producing a natural cheese means working with the naturally-available bacteria: those of the animals (it’s normal, of course: the human body hosts billions of them), those that come from grazing on the pastures, those present because of the climate… all over the world, everything comes with bacteria. We’re convinced that this diversity, this wealth, must be safeguarded. And to do so we must say no to everything that is homogenized and standardized, like cheese made with industrial ferments.

by Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity