Cheese 2023 is closely intertwined with Slow Food Italia’s project Salviamo i prati stabili, or “Let’s Save Permanent Meadows.”

It aims to restore the biodiversity of forage, bring animals back to grazing, and recreate habitats for pollinators. By saving permanent meadows there are undeniable benefits for the environment, as well as for the quality and safety of the products we get from them.

It’s in our interest to save permanent meadows because they…

  • are oases of biodiversity: filled with a variety of herbs, shrubs, insects, birds, and other small wild animals.
  • are important for health: milk from animals fed with grass and hay from permanent meadows is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and especially omega-3.
  • benefit animals: grazing on their favorite grasses, lying down to ruminate, improves their well-being.
  • act as carbon reservoirs: they don’t easily release carbon, even in the event of a fire, as it is retained in the roots.
  • are a cultural heritage: meadows and pastures are tied to pastoral culture and its wealth of knowledge.
  • maintain territorial balance: where a well-managed pasture exists, it is less likely for a fire to spread or avalanches to form.
  • provide economic opportunities: excellent products are derived from stable pastures.
  • last but not least, are brimming with beauty: they are essential for preserving landscapes, a significant part of the culture and identity of local communities.

Not all meadows are created equal…

Permanent meadows are much richer in biodiversity compared to polyculture meadows, where two or three associated grasses are found, or monoculture meadows, sown with a single species. For animals, they provide the best nourishment. Consequently, they give rise to the tastiest and healthiest milk and cheeses.

For over 60 years, these permanent meadows have been diminishing at alarming rates in Italy, Europe, and even the rest of the world. This applies to high-altitude meadows as well as those in the hills and plains. The mountains have been depopulated, while monocultures and concrete have invaded the plains.

Meadows, humans and animals

Many of the meadows we see around us are seeded, often with just one species. Permanent meadows, on the other hand, are natural and abundant with dozens of different herbs, even up to a hundred species in the high mountains.

Human intervention is crucial for their survival. Stable pastures need human care, whether it’s tending, mowing, or grazing. Nevertheless, their best custodians are the four-legged animals: cattle, sheep, and goats, along with the insects such as bees, butterflies, wasps, and ladybugs. Where there is well-managed pasture, the risk of wildfires or avalanches is reduced. But most importantly, milk and cheese from animals fed on grass and hay from permanent meadows are rich in flavors, antioxidant molecules, and boast an exceptional ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra from September 15-18. See you there! #Cheese2023

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