di Marcello Mento
(By Sandra Cordon) Turin, September 20 - In a world of fast food and faster marketing, supporters of locally-based and small-scale production say they are worried for the future of high-quality cheeses made according to thoughtful traditions. Anxiety has risen so high over the future of cheese that the Slow Food movement has launched a campaign titled "Save a Cheese" aimed at creating awareness of the value of distinctive and original Italian cheese. The campaign will coalesce around an event this week in the northwestern Italian city of Bra, designed to remind consumers why great cheese - as well as other locally crafted products - is so important. From Friday through Sunday, the city, located in the Piemonte region of Italy, will be given over to cheese-tasting events, paired with wine-testings and other presentations aimed at improving understanding of the dairy product and its role in Italian culture - as well as within Italian kitchens. There are several factors that have come together to pose a threat to the future of cheese, according to Piero Sardo, president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. Those include everything from limited resources to oversee cheese production to ensure consistent and high quality, to a lack of information for producers and consumers and the widening distance between the producer and the consumer. Even domestic rules and regulations, along with international trade regulations, have a significant impact on the market for cheese and its production. Slow Food said in a press release that it has been fighting to save this delight - and its producers. "First, it brought to light the half-hidden world of dairy products; then it launched a vigorous campaign defending raw milk cheese production; now it is raising its voice in defence of small, marginalized producers," said Slow Food, noting it has created a list of endangered dairy species. "The current catalog already includes several dairy products, but there are many more that need protecting; along with the traditional knowledge, techniques, cultures and landscapes behind their production". The celebration of cheese in Bra, which is attracting thousand of visitors from all over the country and beyond, was officially opened by Minister Nunzi De Girolamo. Hotel managers say that as many as 10,000 hotel rooms have been booked in Bra as well as nearby Langhe and Roero, for the event. Visitors can taste as many as 150 types of cheese including numerous samples from Britain, such as varieties of Cheddar, Stilton cheese and raw milk cheese from Ireland. Workshops on cheese production and dairy farming, along with opportunities for consumers to meet with producers, will be held throughout the weekend, along with the various tastings. More than 800 wines will be available at tasting workshops as well as craft beer tastings and information.