The production of an innovative cheese product of high nutritional value, from Greek raw cow’s milk, was achieved for the first time in Greece by the Raw Cheese project team and, through the formation of an integrated system, enables Greek dairy farmers to differentiate their products from international competition, giving them identity, added value and making them an alternative tool for the development of the sector.
The project, through which knowledge was “born” and provided for the implementation of modern integrated cheese production systems from fresh cow’s milk, with superior quality characteristics, is implemented by the Office of Strategic Projects Management of the American School of Agriculture (AGS), in collaboration with the Veterinary Research Institute of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization Dimitra and the Animal Science Laboratory of the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (APTH), with the co-financing of Greece and the European Union through NSRF funding. The results of Raw Cheese, which ends on January 17, 2023 and has a budget of 841,730 euros, were presented today, in the context of an event held in Thessaloniki.
Abroad, the production of cheese from fresh (ie unpasteurized) milk is quite common and includes highly recognizable products (eg Pecorino di Filiano, Cacioricotta, Roquefort, Brie). In Greece, no unit produces such cheeses, as until recently the mandatory (for health reasons) pasteurization of milk for cheese making did not allow it. However, the production of cheese from raw milk has become possible recently, with the new framework introduced which allows, under certain conditions, the production of cheese from raw milk. Thus, according to article 5 par. 2, of the Ministerial Decision (MA) No. 3724/162303 of the Minister of Rural Development and Food, Official Gazette 3448/22-12-2014, the production of ripening cheeses is permitted following a decision of the competent veterinary authority at least two months from raw milk.
Object and objective of the Raw Cheese project, according to ELGO DIMITRA’s Director of Research, Dr. Giorgos Samouris, is the formation of an integrated system of production, promotion and distribution of cow’s cheese from raw milk with superior characteristics and parallel high business value from the model vertically integrated cow-breeding unit of AGS. For its production, traditional technology is used that gives the special organoleptic characteristics (taste, smell, texture) of milk. The raw material is fully controlled and comes from a unit that follows a specific zootechnical management standard. In addition, within the framework of the project, the specifications for the production process and the assurance of the characteristics that determine the quality of the semi-hard cheese are formulated.
The innovative final product is standardized and will be released as a branded product, with a complete identity, to ensure its uniformity and on the one hand to meet the demands of the consumer, on the other hand to meet the conditions of the legislation, in terms of its hygienic condition and safety. “It is a product as safe as cheeses made from pasteurized milk, as pathogenic microorganisms are absent from milk, and the cheese harvests throughout the production line will be certified so that the product is completely safe for the consumer,” he emphasizes.
The project’s methodological approach includes complementary interventions at all stages of production, from the raw material to the final packaging and distribution of the product to the consumer. These interventions move along three main axes that structure the methodological framework. The microbial diversity of raw milk contributes to the production of cheeses with special organoleptic characteristics, which are absent from pasteurized milk cheese, while at the same time giving it a high biological value and a higher price.
The subject of economic and commercial exploitation of the results of RawCheese is a primary issue for the project team. As emphasized on the website of the project team on the internet (https://www.raw-cheese.com/), the prospects for economic exploitation of the new product are multiple, with benefits for cattle breeding and processing units in general.
The Raw Cheese team points out that the holistic management system of cattle farms will be able to be directly applied to other cattle farms of comparable size, both in the application of the standard itself, but mainly in the diffusion of its philosophy and its introduction to farm management practices.
The expected results
In the expected results of the project, in addition to the production of an innovative cheese product of high nutritional value from Greek raw cow’s milk and the development of a production system the