Questo articolo è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute, filiale italiana di alcuni college e università statunitensi con sede a Perugia. Dopo un approfondimento sul settore agroalimentare e sullle tecniche di scrittura giornalistica, gli studenti di Umbra Institute hanno visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, raccontando la loro esperienza sul campo e contribuendo a diffondere la qualità alimentare dell’Umbria all’estero.
by Elena Serafini
“Fattoria Montelupo,” 33 hectars of sun-kissed land located in the hills of Lerchi, is the place where the excellent buffalo mozzarella is produced. It was 2003 when Gianluca, the farm’s owner, decided to move to Umbria with his cows and start the production of buffalo mozzarella, a product typical of Campania. He is a craftsman of mozzarella; with his hands, like an artist, he creates his artwork. Forget the industrial model, eliminate distance: here everything happens in front of your eyes, from the milking process to production and retail of mozzarella. With three simple ingredients (milk, rennet and other curdling agents) anyone can make different kinds of cheese but what makes Gianluca’s mozzarella extraordinary are two secret ingredients: his passion and love for his animals and his job. This product is the result of the hard work of a young man that truly love his job, so it cannot be less than extraordinary.
The origins of mozzarella. As we arrived at “Fattoria Montelupo,” Gianluca, a young farmer of 31, welcomed us and told us the story of mozzarella and buffalo: “Buffalo really like to swim and in the past Campania was a swamp plain, so this animal could work there while other animals could not. Hence, at the beginning, buffalo cows were just for working the land, only when Benedicitn Monks started to make mozzarella did it become a product that was valued”.
Gianluca’s farm. Here there are 180 buffalo that are free to range and eat the grass. In this place animals are not overexploited; Gianluca and his family try to keep them alive as long as possible. In absence of stress, animals produce better quality milk because when an animal is stressed he releases toxins into the milk. This is a fundamental point for a quality livestock farming and this is one of the reasons they try to create a habitat in which the animals are relaxed. Of course they also look to science and try to blend tradition with scientific innovation. For example they only use bulls that are of the highest genetic capacity.
What do the cows eat? One thing that is really important for the milk and the end product is obviously what the buffalo eat. Here, at Fattoria Montelupo they give them the best food possible so that the cows will make the best milk possible, which will then make a much better mozzarella. The cows eat around 40 pounds a day of non-GMO feed.
The relationship with the animals. Gianluca even gets to know the characters of the animals, which would not be possible in a larger company where everything is industrialized. He told us: “ When I was younger, I visited a conventional dairy farm and I saw sadeness in the eyes of the cows because for all their life they always have to stay in the same position. I believe that in the future it should be compulsory for dairy producers to treat animals in a certain way because they are living beings and they have the right to live a decent life.” Everything in his farm is in equilibrium with the environment; even the electric fence that keeps the animals in is powered in a sustainable way, using solar energy. To produce a quality product here in Umbria it does not only mean to have a business entreprise but to have a mental status that looks at nature in a certain way.
The milking process. The buffalo cows are divided into three groups for milking. The first group is milked twice a day. Once the production of milk goes down they move to a second group and they get milked only once a day. The third group consists of the pregnant cows. As we know buffalo cows are mammals and they produce milk only when they have a calf. In many places reproduction is done in an artificial way, but here there is a bull for each group and the reproduction happens in a natural way. The milk for the cheese is very fresh because they take the milk from the milking station to the laboratory in ten minutes. The entire process, from milking to producing mozzarella, takes eight hours.
The hardest part of this work. In words of Gianluca: “this is not a job, it is a passion. If you do not do it for passion you would not even start because is not very rewarding economically. The most challenging part is not the relationship with animals but with other people”. The problem for small producers is the price: to produce high quality product Gianluca spends a lot of money, (to him a mozzarella costs as much as you buy it in the supermarket.) He has to sell directly at farmer’s markets otherwise his price is too high and he cannot compete with the industrial product. On Thursday he sells in Perugia at the Campagna amica market. He also works with solidarity buying groups in which families get together on a weekly basis and buy directly from the producer to have a great product for a good price. It is very important that the producer has direct contact whit customers to tell them the quality of his product, otherwise just from the bag of mozzarella one does not really know the difference between an industrial product and an artisanal one susch as Gianluca’s. It is relatively new that this quality must be told and written about. Jurnalists and researchers have to the tell the story of quality’s product to give them the right light.