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he project will investigate several areas of the cheesemaking practices in the Maltese islands with special focus on the traditional aspect, the issues of isolation, feed composition, traceability and the importance of the woman’s role in the production of the cheese.

The University of Catania and the research centre of CoRFiLaC will contribute towards the project with years of experience and background knowledge on the production of traditional cheese and the strict controls on methodology of production eligible for labelling a product as DOP. Geographic Indication is a means  through which a product is certified of having a particular geographical location or origin.  The University of Malta will provide information on the Maltese scenario and the farming industry, being the main contact point, offering a service to the herdsmen.

T-Cheesimal has the following objectvies:

• To conduct a preliminary survey on ruminant animals used to produce traditional cheeses in  Malta
• To conduct a Preliminary survey and characterization of the traditional cheess in Malta
• To produce a survey evaluating the woman role in farm producing traditional cheeses
• To identify the local plants that might  be consumed from grazing animals producing milk for cheese making
• To study the impact of local plants and its effect (flavour and sensory properties on the cheese) on milk and cheese quality
• To characterize the cheeses produced from animal grazing pasture
• To perform labeling and experimental marketing  of the traditional cheeses
• To supply on line a set of integrated services for creating a group of assisted points of access
• To improve  the production system quality in order to start the process of quality certifications rules by the EU policies

The traditional dairy products, exclusively obtained from raw milk, provide a unique taste and aromatic aspect from a health and nutritional point of view. Traditional cheeses are associated with the territory of origin, eliciting particular characteristics better known as Biodiversity Factors. These factors are due to the landscape, the climate, the type of natural pasture, the breeding and to all those cultural and historical aspects characterizing a specific area. The combination of all these factors that lead to the creation of the typical cheese that has the potential to become a territorial brand that is a marketing means of interaction with the global consumers not only for promoting the variety of the cheeses but also for promoting the variety of territories.  T-cheesimal aims at investigating these “biodivieristy factors” through chemical and sensorial analysis. Characterisation of these factors is essential in determining what flavours and essences are to be expected in a commercialised line of traditional products.

All the participants of this project share the problem of isolation. More than 70% of those involved in the dairy chain, when considering the territorial landscape included in the zone, are situated inland and distant from the administrative districts. This aspect is a huge handicap and it threatens to produce negative effects such as the lack of transfer of knowledge and technologies between administrators, researchers and producers. T-cheesimal aims to study a strategy which will create a network between the producers, the consumers, the public institutions involved in the agricultural sector to allow the efficient exchange of knowledge and technologies, and to control the bodies which certify the quality of the product manufactured.

Local agriculture has historically used endemic material as fodder for the feeding of its farm animals. This nutritional regime was subject to seasonal variation and climate change. With the advent of modern farming much of these practices have been discontinued and the traditional knowledge associated with it lost. Modernized farm practices have influenced local farm practices resulting in changes in the type of feed, which is typically a mixture of locally grown dried fodder (clover, wheat, barley and hay) in addition to concentrates that are produced by local companies and; the frequency and quantities of the feeds employed with the intention of maximizing growth rate, health status and animal by-product production (such as milk).  The ubiquitous use of concentrates and pasteurisation practices have resulted in the loss of diversity in aromas and flavours present historically in our cheeses, and the creation of regional uniformity this is desirable in some aspects for large scale production of generic products, but not for traditional foods. The project will thus document and investigate the traditional farming practices involved in the production of the local cheeses and aim at their re-instatement in a sanitary environment to ensure their viability for commercialisation.

Although the majority of the local cheese products on the market share are labelled, traceability cannot be ensured throughout the whole dairy chain i.e. back to the herdsman since cheese producers who are serviced by various herdsman exist. The project thus aims at making these products identifiable and traceable for the consumers, with the adequate labelling, describing all the properties along with attractive packaging in order to promote the product’s quality.

The women have often an important role in the dairy production and commercialization chain but their role is not recognized. T-cheesimal will also aid in the promotion of the women’s role in the cheese-making industry.


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