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CHEESE 2017- A Celebration of Raw Milk Cheese

Cheese is a biennial festival dedicated to developing the understanding of cheesemaking around the world. It takes place is Bra, Italy (about 50km south of Turin) and is organised by the Slow Food movement. Cheese is not just about showcasing cheese from around the world. It is also a forum for political action and discussion. The elevation of issues like sustainability, biodiversity, artisanship, and raw milk is central to the purpose of Cheese.

At Cheese, like minds come together and share ideas and strategies for improving cheese. Neal’s Yard Dairy first participated in 2003 to represent the work we do: working closely with producers and market places to select the best cheese available and mature and sell it. To shine the spotlight on the unique work that companies such as ours are involved in, we asked in 2005 that Slow Food allow Neal’s Yard Dairy to organise a group of maturers in one place. This area of the festival has been nicknamed “Affineur Alley”. It is now the most visited part of the whole event.

Unlike at any other show in the world, we can receive our customers with the inspiring back drop of our stand and 100s of kilos of cheese being sold ‘our way’. ‘Cheese’ is a meeting point in the international cheese community where we see more of our customers in the short space of four days than at any other point in the calendar.

Neal’s Yard Dairy’s participation in ‘Cheese’ is incredibly important for the cheesemakers we work with too. They come along and exchange ideas and network with each other whilst having a great time. They get to see first-hand how customers respond to their cheese. This can drive home messages about their cheese’s quality in a way that is difficult to relay otherwise.

Lastly, ‘Cheese’ is an opportunity to put our cheesemongers on the biggest stage the artisan cheese world has ever seen and to show the many passionate cheese consumers and professionals how we do it. It is a chance for us to thank members of staff for the work they put in through the year. While ‘Cheese’ is hard work, it is also a lot of fun. Our only regret is that we cannot bring the entire business along.

At the end of the last edition of ‘Cheese’ we met with the leaders of Slow Food to discuss how the event might be improved upon. There was a real desire from Slow Food to refocus on the core principles of the event for the 20th anniversary.  We had an idea to make the “Affineur Alley” an venue where only raw milk cheeses might be presented and sold. In an effort to truly reflect the movement’s dedication to the continuation of indigenous and sustainable cheese, Slow food decided that it must fight harder for the acceptance of raw milk cheese throughout the world. So this year, the festival is dedicated to raw milk cheese.

This is a brave and a bold step. The goal is to explain why it is essential to defend raw milk cheeses, the subject of one the first international Slow Food campaigns and many battles fought alongside small-scale producers all over the world. We hope this decision will inspire smaller, more specialist cheese companies to attend. By leading the way like this, ‘Cheese’ maintains its place as the event with the most exciting collection of cheese and cheese people in the world.

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