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As the famous TV presenter and never-self-proclaimed Youtube celebrity chef James May once famously and so wisely said: “cheese”. So let’s talk about that!

Cheese has been a staple in the human diet for centuries, possibly several millennia. As with many of humankind’s greatest inventions, the exact definition let alone the details of the discovery are hazy. All we could say is this particular food has been consumed by millions of people all over the world throughout recorded history. What better way could we possibly find to give you a glimpse into the workings of the modern dairy industry than telling you about the process leading to this product ending up at your table. 

Whether it is Irish cheddar melting onto your grilled cheese, a slice of American cheese shining on a burger patty, or some pecorino romano giving incredible depth of flavour to a bowl of carbonara, it all starts with the animals grazing in the fields.

Most of the milk used in making cheese today comes from dairy cows bred specifically for milk production, and they can produce up to 27 litres of milk per day. The cows are milked twice a day, usually in the early morning and late afternoon. Milking cows require a specific diet and care, including regular veterinary check-ups, proper housing, and constant access to clean water.

Once the milk has been collected, it is transported to the dairy factory, often with the help of route planning and optimisation software,. Transporting milk requires specialised tankers that can maintain the temperature of the milk to ensure its freshness. A single truck can pick up loads from many different producers throughout a day before stopping at a factory to unload its contents. Milk is perishable and can spoil quickly, so it is essential to get it to the factory as soon as possible.

At the dairy factory, the milk undergoes several processes to become cheese. The first step in the majority of cases is pasteurisation, which involves heating the milk to a specific temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. After pasteurisation, the milk is cooled and the cheesemaking process begins.

Milk is then mixed with a starter culture, which helps to create the desired flavour and texture of the cheese. The mixture is then coagulated with the addition of rennet, an enzyme that causes the milk to curdle. The curd is then cut into small pieces and separated from the liquid whey.

Depending on the type of cheese the process can vary greatly from this point onwards. The curds could be cooked, either by heating or by adding hot water, to help release more whey and create a firmer texture. Curds are then pressed into molds, where they are left to mature and develop their unique flavour and texture. The length of time the cheese is left to mature can vary depending on the type of cheese being made, generally speaking more time leads to a more complex flavour.

After the cheese has matured, it is packaged and shipped to distributors or retailers. Cheese is a popular product worldwide, and it is often exported to different countries. Shipping cheese requires specialised storage and transportation to maintain the quality of the product. 

Finally, the cheese arrives at the retailer, where it is purchased by consumers and brought to their homes. In conclusion, the journey of milk from the animals to the table is a complex process that involves several steps with each step requiring specialised equipment and expertise to ensure that the milk and cheese are of the highest quality. So the next time you enjoy some parmigiano grated onto your pasta, or snacking on some smoked korbáčik, spare a moment to appreciate the amazing journey it took to get to your plate.

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