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Cheese Manufacturing in the Twentieth Century

The Italian Experience in an International Context


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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The Production of Pecorino Cheese in the Roman Countryside from the End of the Nineteenth Century until the 1930s (Rita d’Errico)


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The Production of Pecorino Cheese in the Roman Countryside from the End of the Nineteenth Century until the 1930s


Roma Tre University

1. Introduction

During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Italy rose to become one of the largest international cheese exporters after having been a net importer right up until the middle of the nineteenth century. This achievement was due in part to the contribution of producers in Southern and Central Italy and the Islands, home to the most exported Italian cheese of the 1930s, Pecorino romano.

Before focusing on the manufacture of Pecorino romano, it may be helpful to delineate the overall situation of sheep’s milk cheese production in this area as described by the first complete statistical survey on the milk and derivates processing industry, compiled in 1937 by the Italian National Office for Statistics (ISTAT).1 At the end of the 1930s, dairy production in the vast area stretching from Tuscany down to Calabria and Sicily and west to the island of Sardinia represented barely a quarter of Italy’s overall output in the sector. This situation led Paolo Albertario, editor of the aforementioned 1937 survey, to define the manufacture of milk and its derivatives as an essentially Northern industry centered around Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, the Veneto and Piedmont.2

Despite a number of differences in context and conditions at a local level, many overall similarities were shared by...

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