Dairy Marketing Practice | Contributing Columnist


On Serendipity, Common Sense and Social Justice

Dan Strongin ASQ CMQ/OE Uncorporate Consultant

November 30, 2018


On 9th of November, the results of the fourth annual Brazilian Artisanal Cheese Awards were announced. On the previous two days, 481 artisan kinds of cheese from all over Brazil had been analyzed by 12 teams of hand-selected and trained judges working in teams of a technical judge, and a sensory judge, inspired by the American Cheese Society Competition.

Unlike the US, which had all but lost its rich tradition of artisan cheesemaking under the weight of industrial progress by 1904, Brazil has maintained an unbroken tradition of tens of thousands of small family farms making cheese.

Since 1950, when Brazil followed the lead of US food sanitation policy, copying the American law of 1949 requiring that all cheese aged less than 60 days had to be made from pasteurized milk, the effects on family farming have been devastating. Many of these families went underground. Brazil is an underdeveloped country. The level of rural poverty is high.

In the US this law was not challenged until the resurgence of artisan cheesemaking the 1980s. There just weren’t enough artisan cheese makers left using raw milk, until then, to challenge aspects of the law.

However, in Brazil, the law dealt a cruel blow to the many thousands of small farmers who were forced to go underground to survive and remain on their farms. Ironically, the dominant social challenge Brazil has faced for decades has been the migration of people from the countryside to the cities, forced to live in increasingly inhumane conditions within and around the major cities.

Under mounting pressure from international agreements, brokered by the World Trade Organization, the world is moving towards more pragmatic and decentralized food sanitation controls. In every case, in every industry, these kinds of controls, based on good practices and continual improvement, have been shown to be more effective than current top-down, bureaucratic policies.

Under the WTO accords, member states involved in international trade must:
• Provide a scientific basis for any food regulations
• and move from antagonism
• and the dependence on inspection
• to collaboration between authorities and producers and defining and managing the local risks during cheesemaking.

Today, even the FDA has called into question the effectiveness of using time of maturation to ensure safety, and has suspended non-pathogenic coliform counts as a measure of the relative hygiene in the milking parlor or cheese room for artisan cheese.

Brazil has recently passed a new federal law, called the law of the Selo Arte, (the Artisan Seal), requiring the simplification of requirements for artisan producers to pass inspections and the unification of the rather byzantine system of norms, and approvals into one system, regulated by the states.

For the first time producers currently registered and inspected by the states have the right to sell their traditional artisan products of animal origin throughout Brazil; though the implementation is lagging, it is moving forward.

Returning to the Judging, after the teams, arranged at individual tables, sitting directly across from each other, had thoroughly evaluated 481 kinds of cheese, and all the medal winners had been chosen, the 61 gold medal winners were evaluated a second time. Of these, each team chose the best on their table and continued until only a handful of cheeses remained from which were to be chosen the best of the best.

The winner of best in the show must be by consensus among the judges. So each judge spoke in favor of their favorite of the cheeses.
Among the remaining four on the cutting board, at the moment of final decision, was a snow white, simple, fresh, buffalo milk cheese.
In the words of Eduardo Tristão Girão, the gastronomic journalist, who served as a judge for the Awards, as posted on his Instagram, @eduardotristaogirao;

“Yesterday, I and the other judges of the Brazilian Artisan Cheese Awards were deeply moved. In the final stage of the contest, after looking at excellent cheeses from all over Brazil, we had to select the winner in the Super Gold category, the best of the best. Moreover, when we decided that the winner would be a creamy Búffalo Milk Cheese from Saint Victor Farm @queijomarajofazendasaovictor, in the municipality of Salvaterra, on the Island of Marajó (PA), many cried.

It is not just about choosing the best cheese based on the evaluation worksheets. This award is for much more than that: we understood and discussed the political and social dimension represented by winning a Super Gold. We chose the Marajó cheese because, in fact, it is excellent, and after being technically assessed several times by several of us it had reached the top.

A soft and homogeneous body: white, unctuous, with a mild flavor, and discrete acidity that was very well balanced, it would be difficult to question its presence at among the best of Brazilian cheese in 2018.

However, the context in which this cheese is so special has to be understood: 200 years of tradition on an island in the far north of the country, among which only 10 certified producers remain.

With obvious logistical difficulties, limited access for months of the year, embroiled in a bureaucratic imbroglio that prevents its sale outside of the State of Pará, it is a sad situation for Artisanal and Brazilian cheese in general. A situation that people from cheesemaking states, know well.

On the one hand, we are jurors, but we are also involved with the cause of Brazilian artisanal cheese. There is no way the outcome could be different.

From 1950 until 2014 this cheese was made and sold illegally, despite its long history and its importance to the cultural and agricultural patrimony of Brasil. It still cannot be sold outside of the State of Para, though that will change, and soon. Best in Shows have a way of drawing media attention.

I am proud to have coordinated this event, along with my technical partner Michele Carvalho. I am proud of the organization ComerQueijo, a play on words, meaning “to eat cheese,” an organization of people who focus on selling Artisan Cheese throughout Brasil.

I am grateful to those in the American Cheese Society who offered generous advice when I was designing the judging a few years agô, especially to David Grotenstein.

In a moment of serendipity, I was called to explain about the cheeses to two English speaking journalists, Xanthe Clay of the Daily Telegraph, and Janet Forman, from the United States. As luck would have it, Janet is a lifelong friend of David Grotenstein. She will deliver my sincerest thanks to him directly.

Both journalists were surprised that the vast majority of the raw milk artisan cheeses in the competition, and throughout Brasil, are made with natural whey starter cultures made on the farm, not bought from laboratories, and no, no one has problems with phage.


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.

Recent Columns

American Cheese Society: Looking Backward, Looking Forward
July 20, 2018

American Cheese Matures: Baetje Farms
June 8, 2018

The High Cost of Low Price is Only Part of It...
April 6, 2018

On Empty Shelves and Other Follies
February 9, 2018

Our Friend - Dan Carter
December 29, 2017

Artisan Cheese, The FDA, And The New Administration
October 21, 2017

Time's Winged Chariot Goes Boom
July 28, 2017

Brazilian Cheese Makers Break The Law, Win Awards
June 30, 2017

Safe And Sane Food Policy:
Fix The Causes To Fix The Results
December 16, 2016

Sane, Safe & Effective Food Policy
October 28, 2016

A Ray Of Hope For A More Effective Food Safety Policy
September 30, 2016

In Her Own Words - Linnea Burnham
August 19, 2016

ACS- 32 & Aging Well
July 22, 2016

What A Wonderful Life: A Tribute to Steve Ehlers
June 17, 2016

What do you think about 
Dan Strongin's Comments?*

Please tell us if you are a
Dairy product manufacturer 
Dairy marketer /importer/exporter
Milk producer
Supplier to manufacturer