Natural Cheese – Grass

Consider two different animal diets.

The first contains the richness and the floral variety of the ridges, crests and meadows of the Maritime Alps, where Alpine, Middle-European and Mediterranean species coexist.

A nutritious and natural pasture which hosts a wide range of botanical species, most of which belong to the families of grasses and legumes, including the alpine clover, as well as umbellifers, amaranth,  sage…

The second, which doesn’t come directly from the meadows, contains maize silage, a good source of energy and fiber but somewhat lacking in protein, supplemented with processed fodder.

Now let’s consider a Piedmontese cow. What diet do you think it would choose for itself, if it could? It would probably prefer to graze on the alpine pastures, naturally rich in essential nutrients and packed with flavors and aromas which are particularly pleasing to the animal.

There’s more. We too can benefit from the rich and varied animal diet, because the odoriferous vegetable compounds are partially soluble in the milk fat, through which they pass into cheese.

Milk from a pasture-raised cow has enhanced sensory and biochemical qualities, and a lower (and therefore more desirable) ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed cow’s milk is also rich in numerous other desirable elements, including conjugated linoleic acid, vitamins and antioxidants.

It’s not an accident that the majority of PDO cheeses come from mountainous areas, nor indeed that a great number of Slow Food Presidia are found there: Lagorai Mountain Cheese, Grappa Mountain Morlacco, Moutain Pasture Castelmagno to name but a few. What these producers have in common is that cheesemaking is not a year-round activity, but specifically a summer activity, when the animals graze in the pastures and produce their highest-quality milk.

Sources
Andrea Cavallero and Paolo Aceto, I tipi pastorali delle Alpi piemontesi, Alberto Perdisa Editore 2007
Armando Gambera and Enrico Surra, Il Gusto del formaggio, Slow Food Editore 2012