October is RAW month at MOULD, where we shine a spotlight on the makers, growers, farmers, and families who are making the best raw milk cheese in the country.

Imagine an Australia where there were hundreds of independent artisan dairy brands. Where small family dairy farms thrived and it was a profitable future in dairy for the generations to come. One where Australian’s recognise the quality of domestic dairy products and shun imported brands.

This is my dream for the Australian dairy industry. But it’s not the reality right now.

Bear with me while I hit you up with a few statistics to put this into perspective. 

Last year, Australia imported 100,000 tonnes of cheese, 35,000 tonnes of butter and 1 million tonnes of ice-cream.  And at the same time 486 small dairy farmers went broke.

Sobering stuff right?

The limited number of processors combined with the tightly held retail market, leaves very little  bargaining power for small dairy farmers. At it’s heart – the interests of the family run dairy farm are irreconcilable with those of the large processors. 

But there is a way. And that is transforming up the value chain. Producing branded milk, yoghurt, gelato or cheese. With increasing financial, environmental and market pressure, farm diversification offers farmers the opportunity to spread income risk, build resilience and take control of their future.

Remember the 70’s when we thought that taking a French Beaujolais to a dinner party was the height of sophistication. Now, of course we seek out a bottle of local wine whenever we head out to dinner. More recently in the craft brewery scene, we’ve seen an explosion of independent brands. Whereas once, you’d go into a pub and be offered one of two beer brands, now the options are endless. And there is room for them all!

All the indigenous micro flora present in the milk is encapsulated in the cheese, creating new and exciting flavour profiles. Why is this important? Because it’s an unreplicatable expression of the landscape of our ancient soils.

We are blessed in this country with the most incredible environment and climate for dairying. Not to mention our enviable clean, green reputation on the world stage. In most areas of the world, dairy animals are housed for much of the year because of inclement weather. But our girls spend languid days relaxing in bucolic pastures.

Hence why it is incredibly exciting that we are now able to produce raw milk cheese in this country. My partner Michael, worked with authorities for over two years in order to move this ball down the field for the entire industry. In 2018, Pecora Dairy became the first cheesery in Australia licensed to make a completely new style of cheese in this country. One with no heat treatment to the milk. All the indigenous micro flora present in the milk is encapsulated in the cheese, creating new and exciting flavour profiles. Why is this important? Because it’s an unreplicatable expression of the landscape of our ancient soils. Or as the French say – terroir.

Today Australian’s are increasingly rejecting the industrialised food system in favour of food with transparent provenance. Consumers are educating themselves. With issues like animal welfare, sustainability and farming practices the basis for their purchasing decisions.

So my dream for the Australian dairy industry? I genuinely believe it can become a reality. As one of my mates said to me once, “if all I’ve got to do to support the industry is eat cheese, then I’m in….”

 

Cressida is one half of Pecora Dairy with her husband Michael Cains. Pecora Dairy is a gorgeous 200 acre farm in Robertson NSW where they make incredible sheep’s milk cheese from ewes who graze on lush, green pastures. The love and care that Michael and Cressida farm with makes it clear that holistic farming isn’t just a philosophy, it’s a way of life.