“Behind every cheese lies a pasture of a different green under a different sky: meadows encrusted with salt that the tides of Normandy deposit every evening; fragrant meadows with aromas in the windy sun of Provence; there are different herds with their shelters and transhumance; there are centuries-old processing secrets passed down through generations.”

Italo Calvino, Palomar

Italo Calvino’s quote resonates because it eloquently and concretely expresses the natural, human, and cultural factors that make the world of cheese one of the richest and most diverse in the realm of food production.

It encompasses pastures and meadows, animal resources, and artisanal savoir-faire developed over the centuries.

The Journey to the Meadows

Cheese has stayed true to its path over the years, highlighting different components of what makes great cheese. For Slow Food, a great cheese is:

  • made with raw milk (Cheese 2017, “The State of Raw Milk”)
  • rich in natural cultures (Cheese 2019, “Natural is Possible”)
  • produced with respect for animal welfare (Cheese 2021, “Consider the Animals”)

Continuing this journey, Cheese goes green this year, putting the true origin of all cheese under the spotlight: the meadows, the pastures, the grass.

The Taste of the Meadows

Green grass, with its many shades and essences, flowers, scents, and aromas, is the primary food for dairy cattle.

Ruminants thrive naturally on grass or hay because, unlike humans, they can convert grass cellulose into proteins, consuming an otherwise indigestible food for us.

The grass of the meadows is hygienic, rich in nutritious substances, and easily digestible for ruminants. The milk derived from it is of the highest biochemical and sensory quality. Animals that live in their natural and original habitat, feeding on the grasses of the meadows live longer and healthier lives – producing less milk – drawing everything necessary for their nutrition from their foraging in the fields.

Better for the animals, better for our health

The transition from grass to cheese may seem like magic, but it is a completely natural process: the aromatic substances of the herbs are transmitted to the milk because the odoriferous plant compounds are partly soluble in milk fat.

The fats thus become a reservoir of aromas and a vehicle through which the aromas pass into the cheese, slowly re-emerging through maturation and refinement.

Such cheeses originating from permanent meadows have an Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio below 4, sometimes even as low as 1, making them beneficial to our health. The milk they are made from is rich in aromas, antioxidant molecules, and “good” fatty acids like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).

On the other hand, cheeses made from milk from animals raised in intensive systems and fed on grains, corn silage, soy, and other industrial by-products may have an Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio as high as 10, promoting inflammatory processes, bad cholesterol, as well as the production of fat mass.

Not all meadows are the same: What are permanent meadows?

At Cheese 2023, we’re focusing on permanent meadows!

A pasture is considered “permanent” when it has not been plowed or tilled for a long time. It is an ecosystem rich in both plant and animal biodiversity, composed of both:

  • Grasses, which provide fiber. Among these, for example, are cocksfoot, tall fescue, timothy grass, and depending on the region and type of pasture, many other species such as meadow fescue, ryegrass, reed canary grass, foxtail, and sweet vernal grass.
  • Legumes, which provide protein. Examples include red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, crown vetch, sulla, forage peas, and faba beans.

Permanent meadows are not subjected to weed control, and pesticides are not used. The propagation of species in permanent meadows is ensured by nature. Humans also play an important role in caring for and maintaining them by mowing, but the best allies of permanent meadows are cows, sheep, goats, and pollinating insects.

At Cheese 2023 we explore another important side to biodiversity!

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

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