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Accepted Paper:

The politics of raw-milk cheese in the food heritage arena  
Cristina Grasseni (University of Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

Raw milk cheese can play multiple roles in the politics of food heritage in northern Italy. I discuss a case in which raw milk dairy technique is used as an emblem of dairy excellence, back-staging the potential radicalness of a fully organic value chain.

Paper long abstract:

Raw milk cheese can play multiple and ambivalent roles in the politics of food heritage. I discuss how raw-milk dairy techniques are used as an emblem of dairy excellence to argue for the distinctiveness ('tipicità') of local traditions: while promoting non-industrial, non-standardized local cheeses, insistence on dairy technique alone can back-stage the opportunity of investing on fully organic value chains.

Drawing on my forthcoming book 'The Heritage Arena - Reinventing Cheese in the Italian Alps' (Berghahn) I will relativize the potential radicalness of raw milk cheese within the complex process of the patrimonialization of heritage foodstuffs, specifically in the context of geographical indications for cheese.

For example, the production protocol for Strachitunt PDO, a cheese whose protected designation of origin was conceded in 2014 after a candidacy that lasted 11 years, stresses the dairy technique of curdling raw milk 'a munta calda', namely at milking temperature. However, this PDO consortium shied away from a more comprehensive strategy promoting local economies through environmental investment. Instead of establishing a 'presidium' with milk from cows grazing exclusively local grass (hence presumably organic), the PDO strategy was more moderate, insisting on raw milk only, and leaving some space to hay imports and diet integrators such as grain-based fodder. Thus a more comprehensive rethinking of the dairy chain was postponed, allowing for an unregulated cows' diet (potentially including GM fodder, for example) and making only a cautious connection between the final dairy product and the maintenance of local pastures.

Panel P133
Politics of raw-milk cheese and fermented food
  Session 1