Dairy Marketing Practice | Contributing Columnist

 


Defend Your Interests And You’ve Already Lost

Dan Strongin ASQ CMQ/OE Uncorporate Consultant

November 1, 2019


 

I just got back from the Brazilian artisan cheese awards. Artisan means something a little different in Brazil than in the United States.

Te United States had lost most of its cheese traditions by the early part of the 20th century. In Brazil, there are still thousands of small family producers. They are in almost every state, making cheese from wild starters and raw milk as if it was 150 years ago.

In the state of Minas Gerais (mee nass jer ays) alone there are over 32,000 cheese makers, 99 percent of them informal or clandestine.
Most of them make cheese and sell it when it is a few days old. Most of them make the same kind of cheese. A cheese from natural whey starter, aged without refrigeration or humidity control. Their surface is wiped clean. The affectionate name for these cheeses is little yellow cheese (Amarlelinho).

Being an acid curd cheese with a clean or perfect rind, the cheese is adapted to its environment. Free of the risk of listeria despite made from raw milk, thousands of Brazilians eat it fresh on a daily basis.

This, despite the risks. Risks that were beginning to be eliminated.
In 2018, a law passed, called the Law of the Selo Arte, or the Artisan Seal. Artisanal foods from animal sources could be sold throughout Brazil. The nightmare was ending after 70 years. It opened the door for fresh raw milk cheese to sell if proven safe. Up to date science shows that raw milk provides natural protection against bad germs, especially when made into cheese.

It promised to lift the economic burden of informality from artisan producers, providing an economic incentive for them to adhere to good practices, and test their herds for tuberculosis and brucellosis.
To maintain the well-being of their animals. Hundreds of producers began the process of registering their farms.

This year, the Brazilian Artisan Cheese Awards, (Prêmio Queijo Artesanal do Brasil), saw an explosion of new cheeses. I am one of the two coordinators. We saw raw milk cheese outnumbering pasteurized by two to one. The state in which we held the event, Santa Catarina, has some of the strictest sanitary regulations in the country. Before the new law, it would have been impossible for us to hold our judging there. They only allowed judges to smell a cheese.
They were forbidden to put the cheese in their mouth. Cheese had to be returned to its maker or burned. How absurd!

The day after returning home, the Brazilian Congress, in an unconscionable act, during a late night session passed yet another law.

Under pressure from industry, this law guts the changes that gave hope to artisan cheese makers.

Originally written in 2015 with the support of only two of the many cheesemaking regions of Brazil, it passed only a few days ago. It favors those two regions and hampers the ability of cheese makers to innovate. Only a handful of the thousands of producers will gain access to the national market now.

Sold as a way to protect artisan cheese to the mídia and the public, the politics of me won over the politics of common sense. Producers around the country are in an uproar. But it is law. Laws are very hard to take off the books once voted in.

The irony is the regions that proposed the law in 2015 began growing mold on their cheeses, with great commercial success. They will have to pull those cheeses from the market, or go clandestine. So much for the shortsighted protection of your personal interests.

Dr. Deming once said protect your interests, you have already lost.
But, if you do what is good for everyone you always end up winning more that you ever thought. Industry, small producers, and government should work together. Collaborate rather than scramble to gain an advantage. What goes around comes around, and the greater good is the greater good.

The same tawdry drama plays itself out in the US and Europe as well.
Outdated regulations punish small producers. Raw milk cheese is under attack despite ample evidence from the scientific community showing it is safe.

Dr. Catherine Donnelly will be releasing her new book Ending the War on Artisan Cheese soon. I have had the honor of reading a preliminary version. I recommend reading it when it comes out. And oh, the drama continues, producers suffer, and great products are kept from the marketplace.


Dan Strongin is a former president of the American Cheese Society, chef and business coach for small to medium value added businesses. Dan can be reached via email at dan@danstrongin.com

 

 

 

The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Reporter.

 

 

Dan Strongin

Dan Strongin is a former president of the American Cheese Society, chef and business coach for small to medium value added businesses, and the owner of the sites learn.managenaturally.com, and the Facebook group Enjoy Cheese. His online course: “Cheese: How to Buy, Store, Taste, Pair, Talk About and Serve”, is available at enjoycheese.net. Dan can be reached via email at dan@danstrongin.com.


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