From our correspondent in Litovel (Czech Republic) Alice Realini
Miracle in Moravia
A cheese born in 2003. The 100 thousand hectares of the 74 affiliated farms. The breeding farm with free range facilities and individual berths. For a total of over 15 thousand milking cows. The quality of the raw material. The plans for the future. Write-up on the journey along Brazzale’s eco-sustainable supply chain.
GRAN MORAVIA IN NUMBERS
construction of the Orrero dairy farm
29 November 1996
cooking of the first cheese
6 boilers installed at the first dairy farm
Brazzale joins Orrero
Gran Moravia is presented at the Annual fair in Cologne
10 thousand square metres of covered facilities
expansion of the dairy farm in 2011
daily production of butter
start of manufacturing of stretched-curd and pressed cheese
Verena is born, a pressed cheese made from mountain milk
“We are free entrepreneurs. Our ancestors created and developed the technologies of typical cheeses, and we feel obliged to make them evolve to keep them abreast of the times, to the benefit of consumers.”
These are the words used by Roberto Brazzale, director of the family enterprise, now in its eighth generation, when introducing his experience in the production of Gran Moravia in the homonymous Czech region. The story of this adventure in the Czech territory is deep-rooted in that of the company, which has always focused on internationalisation. And it is thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall that Brazzale is able to expand to the countries of the old Habsburg world which, at the time, Asiago, their town, also belonged to. A world of outstanding agricultural tradition had been returned to Europe and to freedom. In addition, the scarcity of land in Italy prevented the planning of those sustainable projects that the group had already launched in Brazil. The 1990s, therefore, mark the beginning of an extensive search that lead them to a small dairy farm in Litovel, Czech Republic, which produces a hard cheese similar to Grana Padano. “The shareholders offered us a sort of collaboration. At the beginning, most of the forms were wrong, with many processing defects. On the other hand some, rather isolated, were so perfect that they looked like Reggiana forms. They were the ones that had been processed properly. We immediately thought that the problem was the processing and not the milk, which was of the highest quality for Grana Padano. Finding the thread would mean that all the forms could be like the best ones. When we visited the lands, we were blown away by the quality of the fodder and the huge availability of land in a climate whose rainfall and temperature were ideal for milk. We had finally found the area we had searched so long for, somewhere we could make our dream of a sustainable farming system come true, something that was no longer viable in Italy. Starting from a fundamental idea: a geographical location is undoubtedly important, but the “plus” of Italian produce is the art of its dairy farming, refined over centuries of history and tradition, but one that can be replicated outside their typical areas, provided that the right conditions are in place. Just like our grandfather started to produce Piacentino cheese in the postwar period in Vicenza (which went on to become Grana Padano), where no one had ever produced it before,” said Brazzale. Cheese & Consumptions retraced that journey, visiting the lands, countryside, farms and, finally, the Orrero Dairy Farm: “An Italian enterprise with Italian technology which witnesses the miracle of turning a rapidly perishable liquid into a precious solid that can age for years, improving as time goes by: Gran Moravia” states an enthusiastic Roberto Brazzale. This is the write-up of the journey to discover the miracle of Moravia.
THE ECO-SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN
Average size of farms: 1,250 acres
Area available for each milking cow: 5 acres
Average milk production of cows: roughly 23.8 litres
Number of cattle bred with free range facilities and individual berths: 90%
Self-procurement of forage via the supply chain: 90%
Milking cows: over 15 thousand
Affiliated stalls: 74
Total hectares used by the eco-sustainable food chain: approx. 100 thousand
Milk production per day: approximately 380 thousand litres
Milk production per day by main dairy farm: 330 hectolitres
Average number of employees per dairy farm: 40
Average distance for milk collection: 65 km
Average milk protein values per annum: 3.48%
Total milk production per annum in the Czech Republic: 2.7 million tons
THE HISTORY OF THE ORRERO DAIRY
Roberto Brazzale, director of the Zanè-based company, and Maruska Martinu, founder of the Orrero Dairy, of which she is now the honorary president for life, while telling about the first steps taken by the company until the arrival of the Brazzale family
“The construction of this dairy was not the result of an extensive economic analysis but rather a romantic, almost irresponsible act of love by Maruska, for her land and her people.” This is how Roberto Brazzale views the start of Orrero’s story which is told to us by the founder, Maruska Martinu “In 1969, when the Russian tanks entered our country, I decided that the Czech Republic was no longer for me. I put my degree in orthodontics in a suitcase and left for Italy.” In 1970 Maruska moved to Modena, where she began to successfully practice her profession. “I have wonderful memories of Italy. I was well received and got on well with everyone. It is this love and gratitude for what had happened to me that, at a certain point, convinced me to do something Italian in the Czech Republic, also to help my country which was finally emerging from the dark years under the regime.” The idea of producing a cheese like grana came after reading the Decameron. So, with a reproduction of the famous painting depicting St. Lucius handing out pieces of cheese to the needy, Maruska returned to the Czech Republic and built the dairy farm identical to a “form of parmesan cheese.” It was June 1996. The first cheese was, however, only cooked in November of the same year. “There were countless initial difficulties. And with them reigned a fear of failure, the fear of leaving my employees jobless, people who had already suffered during the disastrous flood in 1997. Producing Grana was more difficult than we had thought. I decided to do the only thing possible: pray and ask God for help. I asked the Archbishop of Olomouc to write some letters to Italian entrepreneurs, to explain to them the serious situation of our population. And after much suffering, we finally met Brazzale. And the results are there for all to see.”
St. Lucius, patron saint of mountaineers, dairy farmers and cheesemakers
a. Some pictures of the farms of the eco-sustainable supply chain. What amazes the eyes of those operating in the agricultural and farming sector in Italy is the size of the cultivation areas of the farms, unimaginable in our country
b. Extensive cultivation of corn c. The unifeed used to feed the cows. “This is an important advantage in terms of efficiency. It allows you to select the most suitable forage for the animal at any moment in time,” explains Roberto Brazzale
1. The headquarters of the Orrero Dairy
2. Roberto Brazzale and Gustav Gec, chairman of Orrero
3. The 74 dairy farms affiliated with the eco-sustainable supply chain, including some located in the mountains, for the collection of milk used to produce Verena cheese
4. “Reggiane” for the production of Gran Moravia
5. The processing phases of Gran Moravia
6. The production of butter
7. A detail of the polyvalent starter
8. Antonio Zuapa, managing director of Zogi, a company that merged with Brazzale in 2003, with the stretched-curd cheese production manager
9. The forms of Gran Moravia in brine
10. The La Formaggeria Gran Moravia flagship store in the centre of Olomouc. The store where you can find Brazzale cheeses, together with many other Italian products, is one of the three already inaugurated by the company. The target is to open eight flagship stores in 2012
The IDF World Summit held from October 15 to 19 in Parma will discuss the theme of sustainable food security in the dairy industry. We talk with two experts in this field
Interview with Richard Doyle, President of IDF (International Dairy Federation)
The challenge of sustainability
The summit aims to illustrate how science and technology can contribute to environmentally sustainable and socially responsible dairy production.
Parma. October 15-19, 2011. These are the coordinates of the next edition of Summilk, the World Dairy Summit that returns to Italy after fifty years. Sustainable food security is the theme of this edition, “which aims to illustrate how science and technology can contribute to environmentally sustainable and socially responsible dairy production,” comments Richard Doyle, President of IDF. We now assess the situation with him, almost two months from the event in Parma.
Why should Italian enterprises and operators attend the Summilk event?
Over the years, this summit has become an important meeting platform for the dairy industry worldwide. A key appointment on the calendar, with an open invitation to everyone. From the CEOs of the largest and small enterprises to industry representatives from all over the world. IDF world summits are always the best way to learn from the experience of others, listen to the latest developments and explore new approaches to shared problems in the sector. There is no other event in the dairy industry which offers more knowledge on a wide range of topics, in such a short period of time. From managers seeking a general overview to the specialist on the lookout for new technical details: all four days of the summit provide high-level training. Because every year we endeavour to provide a top quality programme, in an environment that encourages an exchange and sharing of current issues.
What are the main objectives of Summilk?
This year, the theme of sustainable food security aims to encourage organisations, businesses, communities and individuals to actively address the challenge of a more sustainable path towards achieving global food security. For this reason, the dairy industry is working with all stakeholders along the supply chain and IDF aims to define the correct way of interacting with the industry. Summilk has continuously evolved so as to deal with the new opportunities and requirements of the dairy industry. For example, our cooperation, of a high technical level, with the FAO will be illustrated during the 2011 edition. This consolidated relationship will be strengthened by a series of five joint IDF/ FAO conferences in key areas of sustainable milk production. Of course, alongside the development of all the sustainability projects addressed at the IDF summit, the dairy industry must never forget to promote the positive role of its tasty and nutritious products, in improving the quality of life of consumers.
The theme of sustainable food security is the core theme of this year’s Summit. Why is this theme so important for the dairy industry?
All sectors are called upon to quantify and reduce their carbon footprints and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). And agricultural enterprises, like food manufacturers, are no exception. The theme of sustainable food security, addressed during this year’s edition of the Summit, will explore how science and technology can contribute to the production of dairy products in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner. The IDF and the entire dairy industry acknowledge the importance of the environmental challenges and, with initiatives such as the Global dairy agenda for action (Gdaa), they are progressing with concrete programmes which are capable of bringing tangible results. The Summit will open with the session whose theme is “Real Achievements for a more sustainable dairy sector: Global dairy agenda for action. ” During this appointment we will focus on initiatives of sector industries adopted to meet the commitments set by the Gdaa.
What is the Gdaa?
The Global dairy agenda for action is an initiative developed by six major industry organisations, representing the members of the entire industrial chain worldwide. It was approved in 2009 and aims to demonstrate the commitment of the dairy sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions along the entire supply chain of dairy products, as well as to improve the sustainability of production.
What are the actions adopted concerning the study of climate change?
There are many. Among these, the IDF recently published a book entitled “A common approach to carbon footprints for dairy. The IDF guide to standard lifecycle assessment methodology for the dairy sector”. This new methodology, based on the best available scientific knowledge and on current international standards, will enable worldwide stakeholders in the dairy sector to produce consistent and comparable data on their carbon footprints. This strict measurement will allow effective management of the problem and encourage further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the sector.
How important is this Guide?
Personally speaking, I am very pleased with the leadership role that the IDF has taken on in addressing the environmental challenges in this sector. I hope that the publication by the IDF, of a new methodology for the lifecycle assessment for dairy products, will have an impact on all the industry’s operators and enterprises all over the world. This methodology will allow all interested parties to establish comparable benchmarks to measure the carbon footprints of their products. A truly important result.
Finally. What are, at present, the key issues for the dairy sector worldwide?
The global dairy sector is committed to supplying consumers the products they need, as elements of a healthy and balanced diet, in a socially responsible, environmentally and economically sustainable manner. The most important issues are, as mentioned, sustainability which involves a simultaneous focus on economic, social and environmental achievements. Nutrition, because the effects of food on public health are increasingly being recognised as essential aspects for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. In this respect, it has also been shown how dairy products help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. One could say that the nutritional quality of dairy products is a decisive factor in reducing the cost of health care. Finally, the farming environment. The development of sustainable management systems is now a global key priority, because the social and environmental aspects of milk production are becoming increasingly important, both for consumers and producers. Good agricultural practices aim to reduce the environmental impact of enterprises whilst improving milk production, profitability and welfare of the people and animals involved.
Face to face with Roberto Brazzale, a member of the EU High Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain
“The Milk Package is harmful”
Instead of promoting the efficiency of farms, more necessary than ever before, the Milk Package distorts the principles of competition to guarantee farmers an unacceptable negotiating edge to the detriment of the industry “
“I find that the Milk Package is untimely, harmful to all and in clear contrast with the guiding principles of the CAP reform. It is a provision related to the centralised and interventionist culture of France and of those countries, such as Italy, which follow the regulation.” Roberto Brazzale, director of the family enterprise and member of the High Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain of the European Union, does not mince his words. We meet him at his company offices, a silver sponsor of Summilk, in Zanè, in the province of Vicenza, surrounded by family photos that tell a story which is so very closely linked to that of dairy farming in Italy. The company, in fact, has been a leader in the industry since 1837. And it is one of the main sponsors of the next edition of Summilk 2011. With Roberto Brazzale we approach some of the most pressing issues in the sector, both in Italy and worldwide.
Summilk is around the corner. What is the importance of this event, which is held in Italy this year?
After over fifty years, Summilk offers Italy the opportunity to show the most qualified international operators the extraordinary results our livestock farming and processing industry have been able to achieve. It is a window on the world.
Sustainability and food security are the core issues of this summit. Do you think that, in Italy, the industry gives sufficient importance to such issues?
Food security has been in the spotlight of operators for some time now, and they have managed to fine-tune a food chain system that provides an absolute guarantee to consumers. Food has never been as secure and healthy as it is today. With regard to sustainability, this involves a number of different aspects: from reducing the environmental impact of production processes to a reduction of animal load per hectare. Unfortunately, our country has a very valuable but definitely limited amount of agricultural land, and this restricts the possibility of achieving sustainable agro-industrial models based on innovative criteria. In order to achieve them, our Group chose Moravia, in the Czech Republic, where the environmental and territorial conditions are optimal and congenial to such goals.
The milk package, approved recently. What do you think of this provision?
I think it is untimely, harmful to all and in clear contrast with the guiding principles of the CAP reform. It is an unsuccessful attempt to respond to new market dynamics triggered by the abolition of Community interventions, which led to the high volatility of prices over recent years. The trouble is that the “package” is inspired by the centralised and interventionist culture of France and of those countries, such as Italy, which follow the regulations.
And CAP on the other hand?
On the contrary, the CAP reform was rightly inspired by the culture of the Nordic market, which is essential if we want to be able to compete in an increasingly open world. Instead of promoting the efficiency of farms, more necessary than ever before, the Milk Package distorts the principles of competition to give farmers an unacceptable negotiating edge to the detriment of the industry Provisions which foresee the obligation of long-term contracts is like blocking the mercury in a thermometer: how will you measure a real temperature when it is high?
And what about price volatility?
Price volatility is simply the physiology of a market which is no longer drugged or anaesthetised by interventions. It is seen as the ‘bad guy’ instead of recognising its valuable function as an indicator of scarcity or abundance, which helps to correct the peaks. No one admits that, since 2007, the mean prices of raw material are, on average, much higher than when the interventions were in place. Instead of complicating the chain, the EU should pay more attention to improving price variations along it, maybe focusing on the rigidity of the price lists imposed by Large Scale Distribution to suppliers. The processing enterprises risk being crushed between legislative favours to farmers and abuse of dominant position of LSD distribution.
You are a member of the High Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain. What are the objectives of this Forum?
This Forum is the result of an intuition of the Vice President and EU Commissioner for Industry, Antonio Tajani. It groups four different committees (Agriculture and Rural development, Industry, Internal Market and Services, Health and Consumer Protection) and eight ministers of agriculture. It consists of a total of 45 members, representing the European countries and enterprises operating in the production, processing and distribution of food products, as well as professional associations and non-governmental organisations representing the interests of citizens. The goal is to work to achieve a better functioning food supply chain. And launch a work plan that can increase bargaining power and promote good practices in the food industry. The Forum is also implementing the recommendations of the previous High Level Forum on milk.
What is the importance of this Forum?
It is a valuable initiative launched by the Commission, which may help the European Union, which appears to be in trouble. The EU seems to have fallen into a disquieting cul de sac of sluggishness, indecision and demagoguery, particularly after assigning a key role to the European Parliament in the law-making process, to the detriment of the Commission. Too much bureaucracy, too many procedures, excessive public interference. And international competitors, in the meantime, enjoy a free rein on new and old markets.
Are there are issues that Italy, in particular, is promoting at the Forum meetings?
For Italian politics, and rightly so, the system of local products is absolutely fundamental, the only one capable of producing a value added capable of supporting our agricultural production, which is of high quality but penalised by production costs that are far from competitive. A culture which shuns innovation and objective structural shortcomings drive our costs to levels that can only be offset by the extraordinary ability of the processing industry in creating cheeses which are unique in the world.
Labelling and rules regulating production volumes for PDOs. These are some of the hottest issues affecting the industry at present. What is your opinion?
The mandatory labelling of denomination of origin of the raw materials is almost impossible from a practical point of view, and risks becoming an instrument of unfair denigration in the hands of various local protectionists, in contrast with EU and fair competition principles. Those who want to, can already indicate the origin of their products, and not only using the PDO or PGI systems. For example, we have already done so with the “Gran Moravia” brand name. And for Italy, a structurally deficient country, there is the risk of causing further “de-industrialisation”, pushing processing enterprises that currently operate in Italy with raw material, also of EU origin, to consider moving their activities abroad. We must remember that the raw material is healthy and guaranteed homogeneously throughout the community.
And what about the control on production volumes?
I believe that the adjustment of production volumes of PDOs to meet market demands and the mechanisms of differentiated contribution are an invaluable contribution to guarantee quality and geographical typicality and are not in conflict with the antitrust laws. Current market trends show that the production of PDOs reacts quickly to price and can temporarily offset imbalances between supply and demand on the market, even in the presence of production orientation measures based on quality. If you consider that the equivalent non-PDO products represent a significant slice of the market, we can be sure that consumers are protected against cartel risks. Apart from that, there are only advantages. I hope that the EU will endorse these decisive aspects and accept Italy’s requests.
World Congress of milk. Summilk returns to Italy after fifty years
CO2 content. It measures the impact human activities have on the environment, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide.
International dairy federation
Global dairy agenda for action.