“Herding cattle up the side of a mountain might seem like a lot of extra work, but for thousands of years, people have hauled their cows into the Alps to graze during the summer months. Why? It’s all about great-tasting cheese.
In places like Italy, some traditional cheeses, like bra d’alpeggio or Formai de Mut dell’Alta Valle Brembana, can only be made with milk from mountainside-munching cows.
But in Italy, at least, the practice may be dying out. “Young people don’t want to stay in the mountain because there are poor opportunities for work,” so they often move to the city, says food chemist Giovanna Contarini of the Centro di Ricerca per le Produzioni Foraggere e Lattiero-Casearie in Lodi, Italy. If there’s no one left in the mountains to raise the cows and make the cheese, she says, “we risk losing an important product.”
Contarini and her colleagues have been working to save these mountain dairy products. And fans of the cheeses say there’s more than just nostalgia involved. It’s not easy to define the flavor, Contarini says, but aficionados insist the cheeses do taste better.”