In 2001, Slow Food launched a campaign to protect cheese made from raw milk, gathering over 20,000 signatures in support of the Slow Food Manifesto in Defense of Raw Milk. The manifesto was drawn up to protect the rights of cheesemakers in countries where overzealous hygiene laws forbid or jeopardize the production of raw milk cheese. Gradually, the success of the campaign is restoring confidence and dignity to cheese producers around the world.
Raw milk avoids the process of pasteurization – essentially the cooking of milk – which kills the potentially harmful microorganisms that proliferate in milk left at unsuitable temperatures or lurk in milk from unhealthy animals. The pasteurization of milk is a consequence of the change in farming methods in the last half century, which led to a poorer quality of life of the animals and therefore an increase in the risk of disease. But when cheese is made carefully, usually on a small-scale, pasteurization is unnecessary and avoided since it kills the beneficial microflora that contribute to the unique flavor of a cheese. It’s no coincidence that great cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort and Emmenthaler are made from raw milk.
All Slow Food’s Presidia cheeses are made from raw milk, and, especially in the USA, Ireland, Great Britain and Australia where regulations are very strict or prohibit raw milk completely, Slow Food is taking a stand to support the right of producers to make them.
Slow Food in Australia launched a campaign in 2009 to give artisan cheesemakers the right to produce, and consumers to eat, Australian raw milk cheese. The campaign is calling on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand authority to enable Australian cheesemakers to make and market quality raw milk cheese, and for the development and enforcement of safety and labeling laws and regulations that will maintain Australia’s integrity as a ‘clean food’ nation. Click here to sign the petition.
Members of the American Raw Milk Cheese Presidia created a new independent Raw Milk Cheesemakers’ Association in 2007 – a member-based association open to all raw milk cheesemakers, which is focused on promoting and protecting the right to produce raw milk cheeses of quality in the US, and providing a network to assist small-scale cheesemakers with technical, regulatory and business resources. The Slow Food Raw Milk Cheese Presidium is administered by the Raw Milk Cheesemakers’ Association.
The Irish Raw Milk Cheeses Presidia was established in 2005 to support cheesemakers who were continuing to use raw milk, and to celebrate the distinctive merits of their cheeses. The group works to protect these unique products for future enjoyment, and continue the revival of the island’s cheesemaking traditions. Today eight artisan producers make up the Presidium, each with their own approach but sharing a common commitment to producing a safe, high quality product using raw milk.
Cheese is Slow Food’s biennial event dedicated to ‘milk in all its shapes and forms' (not only cheese itself, but also butter, milk, yogurt, ice-cream…). Held in September in Bra, Italy, an important center for the aging and sale of cheese, it made its debut in 1997 and today attracts around 100,000 visitors. Cheese turns the public’s attention to important issues such as the legal battles facing raw milk cheese producers and the taste qualities of their products. It brings together hundreds of the world's very best cheeses and their producers, as well as a host of experts, cheese mongers and cooks.