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Animals and their feeding

The production steps

Guaranteed and controlled quality

Savoie cheese production draws on ancestral production methods, with the quality of its products guaranteed through strict adherence to very precise specifications.

Know-how passed on from generation to generation

To meet the specifications set by quality certification bodies, Savoie Cheese production is subject to strict adherence to production methods arising from ancestral practices and the use of traditional equipment.

This equipment has been modified in order to meet modern hygiene standards, even to the extent that certain actions have been modified for the greater comfort of producers, but the traditions continue to be upheld, and are set in the specifications.

Did you know?

Cheese production in Savoie makes a noteworthy cultural and economic contribution. More than 2,000 milk producers exist for 325 million kgs of milk produced (80% of which is processed under quality certification), 60 collective cheese dairies and more than 340 workshops located on farms or in Alpine pastures. The quantity of milk produced is negligible compared to the whole of France: it represents 1.5% of French national milk production, but 15% of PDO and PGI cheese production in France. 32,000 tons of cheese under quality certification are produced in Pays de Savoie each year.

Through the centuries, passionate people have adapted their practices to enhance the characteristics of each cheese. It was the large-scale forest clearing in the Middle Ages that paved the way for farmers to use Alpine lands as pastures. At the same time, they processed their milk into the largest cheeses possible, to facilitate their preservation and ensure winter consumption as well. The cheese processing cooperatives and dairies in each village were also established in order to enable bigger cheeses to be produced, particularly Emmental.

Today, more than 2,000 milk producers still exist (essentially structured into around a hundred cooperatives) in addition to 60 cheese processing production facilities. Farm and Alpine production remains a distinctive feature of Savoie, which has more than 340 production facilities.

Hats off to unpasteurised milk!

Savoie cheeses do not undergo any treatment of the milk which would reduce the lactic flora it contains before it is processed (through heat treatment, microfiltration): so we say that the cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk. The milk is processed very soon after milking (generally within 24 hours).

Working with unpasteurised milk allows for the microbial flora naturally present in the milk to be preserved; through their diversity, several dozen bacterial species will contribute to forming the product’s sensory characteristics.

The production of Savoie cheeses always follows the same process: inoculation, rennetting, cutting of coagulum, stirring, moulding, pressing, salting, drying-maturing, but with varying time frames, temperatures and manual actions which will result in very different shaped cheeses. They are all made from unpasteurised milk, with humans present in the production process and traditional equipment used.

Maturing

Cheese production is historically a means of preserving milk, while maturing optimises its storage.

For Savoie cheeses, maturing is the only form of preservation permitted, as freezing is prohibited. The master cheese ripener draws on all of their know-how to allow the cheese to reach maturity and freely express the distinctive characteristics that come from the terroir on which they are produced and the unpasteurised milk used.

Agricultural practices

In Savoie, livestock farmers make the most of grass through grazing and collecting it as fodder (silaging is not allowed). That’s why from spring onwards herds are seen grazing in pastures everywhere, with a number of active haying operations. To get quality fodder, the farmers dry it in barns.

This technique allows for the most distinctive characteristics of the fodder to be preserved, while it also reduces the time it spends on the ground, getting wet from rain.

The grass grows very quickly, but it can also become “overripe” very quickly. The farmers therefore need to use it at the right time. A windfall in mountain terms is to get growth maintained over a period of time based on altitude and the lie of the lands, with those in a southerly direction growing earlier than those in the north.

Farmers work out grazing routes based on this variation, including, for some, climbs up to Alpine pastures. Gathering hay is also staggered to ensure different qualities in the fodder, and thus ensure balanced feed for the winter. If farmers don't have enough fodder for their own operation, they are able to buy in, but PDO and PGI specifications require most of the feed to come from the appellation area. There is also a limitation on the complementary feed (grains, oilseed and proteins) allowed in terms of PDO and PGI specifications.

See the video : Le pâturage et les fromages de Savoie

Quality

To guarantee the quality of the products and adherence to the specifications stipulated by PDO and PGI certifications, regular inspections are carried out by industry members, throughout all stages of the production process.

To ensure offering consumers optimal guarantees, these inspections are subject to European standard 45 011, guaranteeing impartiality and reliability. This manifests as an independent inspection (by a certifying body) and the implementation of strict measures, from educational measures to the applying of penalties.

For the past six years, a support-driven approach (called a “growth strategy”) has been implemented by Savoie cheese producers. This concerns a complete audit of each farming operation: adherence to product specifications, traceability of practices, protection of the environment, and the implementation of safety rules, amongst other aspects.

By subscribing to this approach, producers assume the role of pioneers, anticipating the reform of quality and source control measures set by a new agricultural orientation law. This reform came into full effect in July 2008. With the aim of aligning more closely with consumer expectations, this new law necessitates regular monitoring and inspection of operators in the industry, through internal inspections (ODG or “Protection and Management Bodies") and external inspections conducted by duly qualified bodies. Cheese products are regularly assessed for their taste qualities. A commission comprised of cheese experts (technicians, consumers, distributors and operators) assesses the cheeses based on various criteria in order to declare them compliant with each quality certification.

Exemplary programmes for monitoring hygiene quality standards 

Manufacturing cheese from unpasteurised milk entails attentive care paid throughout the manufacturing process. Over and above the cheese analyses carried out by each company, more than 54,000 analyses of the milk supplied by each producer are conducted each year in order to monitor hygiene quality (Staphylococcus and Listeria).

These analyses allow for corrective actions to be taken by certain operations if necessary. Thus, on average 550 supportive measures for operations are implemented each year. At cheese production facilities (cheese dairies, companies and farm producers), more than 2,700 annual technical visits are conducted by trade union technicians to improve quality (hygiene and sensory), in addition to monitoring measures overseeing the activities of each operator.

In terms of each cheese, diversity is controlled: any cheese that diverges too significantly from the average is pulled aside or declassified. To this end, tastings between milk producers and cheese makers are arranged regularly, with the involvement of the administration. The tasted cheeses are characterised by means of a taste grid, which is specific to each one of the 7 Savoie cheeses.

Protected Designation of Origin - Protected Geographical Indication

The 7 Savoie cheeses: five Protected Designation of Origin (PDOs) and two Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs)
Providing consumers with meaningful guarantees, this certification shows the upholding of values related to the land, know-how, as well as the taste and nutritional qualities of the cheese. To define the qualities and distinctive characteristics of each cheese, while also taking into account recent changes, the specifications arising from the PDO and PGI certifications are regularly updated.

  • Protected Designation of Origin: the European transcription of AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin), the PDO quality certification provides consumers with a guarantee that the recognised products have close ties to the land, demarcating a geographic area governed by specific rules of production, concerning the breeding of livestock to the maturing of the cheese.
  • Protected Geographical Indication: existing at European level, the PGI quality certification defines specifications guaranteeing the source of the products from a specific region as well as their quality, associating this to various stages of product development.

This protection provides the consumer with a guarantee of the source of the product and adherence to very specific production rules. The INAO is the guarantor of the inspections carried out throughout the production process. In addition to checking adherence to PDO and PGI specifications, a collective organisation supports producers and cheese makers throughout the various Savoie cheese production stages. This offers a guarantee that specific practices are upheld (such as ensuring GMO-free feed) and that optimal product quality is offered (unpasteurised milk, taste qualities). Farmers take on board advice adapted to local conditions, as do cheese makers who draw on research results relating to inoculation.



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Teachers

Learn more at school
A free educational kit on Cheeses of Savoy PDO-PGI, exists : pedagogical, playful and attractive, it is at your disposal!
To order it, simply download, fill and return the order form.

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Ateliers

3 ateliers pédagogiques à la carte pour les cycles 2 (CP-CE1) et les cycles 3 (CE2, CM1, CM2).

Pour les classes de Savoie et Haute-Savoie, 3 ateliers peuvent être réalisés en classe :
  • La fabrication des Fromages de Savoie
  • La ronde des sens
  • Les Fromages de Savoie : des acteurs durables du territoire
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