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Cheese Manufacturing in the Twentieth Century

The Italian Experience in an International Context

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Edited By Rita Maria Michela d'Errico, Claudio Besana and Renato Ghezzi

Since the end of the nineteenth century the dairy sectors of some industrialised European and American countries have experienced a phase of growth that took place at a different rate and in a different manner in each country, and which was made possible by the availability of raw materials and a more widespread knowledge of scientific and technological methods. The sector’s expansion was favoured by a revolution in transport networks, the beginning of globalisation in world markets and, decisively, by advances in packaging and refrigeration techniques. Italy in particular, despite its low availability of raw materials compared to other countries, rose quickly throughout the last century to become one of the largest international producers and exporters of cheese, especially of high value PDO cheeses. What factors were behind this achievement and which were the strengths and weaknesses of the sector during the twentieth century? The articles presented in this volume attempt to provide an answer to these questions from different points of view and using different interpretative approaches. The geographical range covered by these studies also reaches beyond Italy in order to look at other countries with relatively ancient dairy traditions. This comparative approach, although limited to just a few countries, is important in that it allows us to describe the evolution of a milk and dairy sector which has had such a large influence on the economic life of many regions in the Italian peninsula.

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Claire Delfosse, Cheese-making in France at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: A Spatially Diffuse, Complex and Unique Organization?

Abstract. In the late nineteenth century, scientific and technical innovations, the development of dairies and new trade conditions led to a process of differentiation, which modified the geography of cheese-making in France. In parallel with regional agricultural specializations and the birth of the cheese industry, successful systems for cheese production were being affirmed. Truly successful cheese production systems are affirmed. These cheese-making systems may be likened to productive systems. They combine a type of dairy business, a preferential cheese, a dairy breed and a marketing mode. Four systems can be identified for cheeses, and one for butter: the cooperatives of the Charentes area. They spread innovation and contributed to areas of expansion, which reached their peak on the eve of the Second World War, transforming local economies. However, the cheese-making systems did not cover the whole of France. They met other dairy specializations and did not disappear completely from the areas of farmhouse production of butter and cheese which had been identified from the middle of the nineteenth century.

Claire Delfosse is Professor of Geography at the University of Lyon 2. She heads the Laboratory of Rural Studies, a multidisciplinary research laboratory. Her research focuses on the geo-history of dairy products, the protection of historical food products, food quality, and food and rural-urban linkages. She has recently published a book on the history of the...

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