pioneers in organic cheese with denomination of origin


ZAMORA

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For more than three decades his flock of churra sheep has grazed on the Arribes del Duero, in a place bordering Portugal which today is a transboundary biosphere reserve. There, Alonso Santos began an extensive livestock project in the 1980s that he completed with the production and sale of artisanal cheeses that he made with the milk of his animals, in addition to opening up to the sale of suckling lambs and lambs. An example of how to close the production cycle to obtain added value, without giving up the artisanal production that gives this agri-food industry that plus. Alonso Santos was also a visionary, since when the organic production certification was barely known, he opted for his cheese factory to have that distinction, as before he had also had it bear the seal of the Denomination of Origin of Zamorano Cheese.

His was not only the first agri-food industry in the Denomination to produce organic cheese. In the year 2000, it became the first cheese factory in the region with the seal of Organic Agriculture of Castilla y León, the entity in charge of guaranteeing the origin of the product with optimal use of natural resources and the absence of phytosanitary products, synthetic or genetically modified products in its preparation. In addition to the seals of the Denomination of Origin, which has been on its cheeses since 1996, and of organic products, there are also other distinctions related to its traditional, artisanal and quality production, such as the Tierra de Sabor brand and the Artesanal Food brand. of Castile and León. With these references, the ‘La Faya’ cheeses have not only triumphed in Spain, but have also opened up sales abroad and have been the subject of various university studies.

The business has been continued by a new generation of the Santos family headed by Ángeles, the daughter of the founder of the cheese factory, who after studying at the University and working in banking, decided to return to her town to contribute to the family business project the knowledge that it gives him having studied Business Administration and Management. Among the products they make, all of them with churra sheep’s milk, are the Zamorano Cheese with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) ‘La Faya’, which they sell both in wedges and whole or in olive oil, in different sizes. They also sell, under the same commercial brand, other small cheeses made with pasteurized milk, one of them and another with raw milk, to which they have also added a cream cheese protected by the PDO. The control of the entire process, from the birth of the lambs and the grazing of the sheep to the milking and the production of the final product, ensures traceability and consistent quality.

Ángeles Santos, who works in the family business together with her two brothers, her parents and two workers, acknowledges that she grew up among sheep and is happy with the work she does, although she admits that being in a remote place, such as the border sayaguesa with Portugal, involves inconveniences such as telephone coverage problems or difficulties in broadband internet access. This despite the fact that at present, most of the administrative procedures of the cattle and the cheese factory must be carried out electronically. Another stumbling block is that derived from the wolf, with a herd settled in this region of Zamora that threatens extensive ranching. Even so, Ángeles admits that she would not change her decision to give up a working life in Salamanca and return to the town twelve years ago to take care of the family herd of 1,300 sheep.

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