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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 Modernization of the Dairy Industry in Italy in the Late Nineteenth Century. Social Dairies (Manuel Vaquero Piñeiro)


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The Modernization of the Dairy Industry in Italy in the Late Nineteenth Century

Social Dairies

Manuel Vaquero PIÑEIRO

University of Perugia

1. Introduction

In the context of the formation of the industrial structure of post-unification Italy, production cooperatives played a key role in the birth of the agri-food sector. For nearly half a century the specialized literature and government policy were dedicated to making it possible to increase production, improve product quality, and expand national and international marketing channels. While historiographical interest has largely centered on the consolidation of the entrepreneurial state, and private enterprise in its diverse forms,1 the late nineteenth century saw the first consolidation of industries derived from agriculture and animal husbandry. The cooperative movement was credited with an indisputable role in this development.2 It was no coincidence that, after 1861, this was the path chosen above all by management teams of a Catholic conservative background, who viewed solidarity based solutions as the most appropriate strategy to improve the living conditions of peasant farmers, while at the same time avoiding the dangers associated with the abandonment of the countryside and the rise of the working class population in the cities.3

In this way, in the final decades of the nineteenth century, and in the wake of an intense propaganda campaign, the development of the Italian ← 303 | 304 → agricultural industry was entrusted to the formation of a dense network of cooperatives...

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