Italians draw on Czech cattle for big parmesan plant

Tue Jul 3, 2012 9:25am EDT
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By Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) - When two earthquakes shook northern Italy in May, gourmets around the world were worried by television footage of damage to wheels of the adored parmesan cheese which came crashing down from their shelves and the dairies that produce them.

Losses are still being assessed and will not likely lead to market shortages. But should there ever be a need to search for alternative supplies, lovers of the hard, grainy cheese that is essential to pasta dishes should look to the Czech Republic.

That is where an Italian family firm going back seven generations and some 200 years runs what it says is the world's biggest single dairy production line making parmesan-type, or grana-style cheese using traditional handcrafted methods.

The Brazzale family scouted the former Warsaw pact region for years after the 1989 fall of Communism before it found what it needed in the Czech Republic - mainly enough pasture for cattle and solid expertise.

Starting from a tiny operation in 2000, the dairy at Litovel, in the traditional eastern farming region of Moravia, now employs more than half of Brazzale's 350 staff.

"What's important is that when we saw the area, we immediately said - this is the right region. There is a lot of land, the farms are big, well-managed," said Roberto Brazzale, the head of the family firm.

"The race of the cattle is very good for our cheese, I would say better than Italy," he told Reuters.

The Litovel plant takes in as much as half a million liters of milk per day, about eight percent of the Czech Republic's total production.   Continued...

An employee stacks a wheel of cheese on the storage shelves at a diary plant in Litovel, one of the world's biggest producer of traditionally made parmesan cheese, June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Petr Josek