Slow Food Brazil has been actively supporting producers of artisan raw-milk cheeses since 2011. Convivium leaders, Ark of Taste members, chefs, gastronomy researchers and experts from the national network have joined forces and are committed to protecting this important food heritage, which is more threatened today than ever before.
For more than 50 years, a rigid legislation designed for large industrial production has constrained many of the country's small-scale artisan producers of raw-milk cheeses to sell their products in an "informal" way.
According to EMATER (agency for technical assistance and rural development) 40% of raw-milk cheese sales in Brazil are illegal. Furthermore, regulations such as a more than 60-day minimum maturation period and the mandatory use of stainless steel workbenches and forms have significantly altered the quality and flavor of the cheeses. Not to mention that the producers - all small-scale - are unable to meet the costs of actions required by the legislation. In this way, the system is jeopardizing an ancient tradition, rooted in many states of Brazil and passed down by thousands of producers.
In May 2011, the Brazilian Ark of Taste Commission launched the first initiatives to protect raw-milk products. In particular, it supported the Brazilian Artisan Cheeses Seminar (a three-day conference organized by Embrapa Agroindústria Tropical and EMATER, which was held in November 2011 in Fortaleza, Ceará State).
This provided the first occasion for the working group - 12 producers from seven states - to come together, along with the NGO Sertão Bras (working to protecting artisan cheeses in the state of Minas Gerais for several years) and numerous other individuals from across the country. During the seminars, round table discussions and meetings that took place, the daily problems facing producers in various regions where analyzed and the next steps for the campaign were discussed. It also provided an opportunity to taste the cheeses of 25 producers, including: requeijão from the Northeast Region; colonial cheeses from the state of Santa Catarina; mountain cheeses from the state of Rio Grande do Sul; Canastra, Salitre and Mantiqueira cheeses from the state of Minas Gerais; and Marajó cheese from the state of Pará.
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