About Adopt-an-Alp®

Transhumance – the move of people and animals in accordance with the seasons – is a centuries old tradition. It serves several purposes both nature and society wise, and its ultimate perk are the fabulous Alpage cheeses it lets us enjoy year after year.

But spending summers far away from civilization and making cheese is less rosy a lifestyle then most of us imagine. It is marked by lack more than by luxury, and it comes as no surprise that the amount of people still willing of taking the burden is decreasing slowly but steadily.

Adopt-an-Alp unites Alp farmers in Switzerland, where Transhumance has originated over 8,000 years ago, and American cheese mongers by shedding a realistic light on every day life on the Alp. Through telling the story of each family, sharing photos and updates, both cheese mongers and their customers are able to follow their adopted family and herd, and to understand this very particular lifestyle.

And only by understanding Transhumance can we fully appreciate and respect all the work these people do, and with it the Alpage cheeses we so love. Which, on the other side, motivates and inspires the farmers and thus helps to keep the tradition alive. – Actively supporting farmers and getting rewarded with spectacular Alpage cheeses? This is a win win situation indeed.

How to Adopt an Alp

It’s easy. Go to the AaA contact page or call your sales person at World’s Best Cheeses. You will get information on the Alps on the website and a product and price list so that you can pick your preferred Alp. With choosing your Alp you are committing to buying a minimum of 10 wheels at the end of summer (less for large format cheeses). If an Alp offers more than one kind of cheese – like most do – you can combine them. You don’t have to take all wheels into your store at once. All that is asked is that they are out of the WBC warehouse by the end of the year. Cheeses produced last summer or before will available in the US in early October, this summer’s production at the beginning of November.

The 23 Alps of Transhumance 2017

1. Äbnistetten (LU)
2. Arnischwand (OW)
3. Berglialp (GL)
4. Bleiki (NW)
5. Heuboden (GL)
6. Imbrig (LU)
7. Jänzimatt (OW)
8. Krauchtal (GL)
9. Parpan (GR)
10. Obern Galm (VS)
11. Maran (GR)
12. Pierrefeu (BE)
13. Pragel Bödmeren (SZ)
14. Rainhütten (AI)
15. Ruosalp (UR)
16. Sarganserland
17. Satteleggli (BE)
18. Site (BE)
19. Steiner’s Hohberg (FR)
20. Tompey (VD)
21. Trosen (SG)
22. Urnerboden (UR)
23. Wasserberg (SZ)

Store owners, associates, sales staff and chefs: Have a look at our map and check out the profiles of the various alps and families who live and work on them. Choose your favorite one and be excited to get ten wheels (four in the case of large format cheeses) into your establishment at the end of alp season, just in time for the Holidays.

Go on www.adopt-an-alp.com regularly as we will be sending updates, blog posts and photographs from and on all alps and folks throughout the entire summer. – And make sure to share the news with your customers so that they all want to be the first ones in your store on the day those alp delicacies arrive, because… you want to participate in the contest.

Our Partners: InterCheese AG, World’s Best Cheeses and SAV

All cheeses belonging to Adopt-an-Alp are exported through InterCheese AG and imported as well as distributed by World’s Best Cheeses in Armonk/NY and Alameda/CA.

Adopt-an-Alp by Quality Cheese is officially supported and promoted by “Schweizer Alpkäse” organisation Alpkäse.ch, the agency supported by the Swiss government and in charge of the protection and marketing of Alp products.

The Health Benefits of Alpage

Besides being a delicious product crafted in surroundings with clean air, purest water, lush flora and no fertilizing, Alpage cheeses offer an array of healths benefits. Over the course of the two last decades many studies have proved them to the extent that in Switzerland Alpkäse by now is regarded as “Functional Food” – food that benefits one’s health. For an in-depth scientific article please click here.

Unfortunately the majority of our modern days’ population doesn’t eat healthy. As a result weird eating trends have surfaced during recent years. Avoiding fats, carbs or sugar, for instance, going vegetarian or vegan, you name it. “Those so called diets are nonsense”, says Uwe Knop, a German nutritionist and researcher “your body knows what it wants. It’s all a question of how much.” (Source: SRF)

Fat has been one of these “no-nos” for many years. However, the body needs fat. The higher the quality, the better. Hence we eat fish, and that’s why we should eat Alpkäse which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Most people know about the “French Paradox”, but there’s also a Swiss Paradox: Those Swiss living in mountain areas consume way more fat (cheese, butter) than the rest of the population but their life expectancy is clearly higher and they are healthier both physically and emotionally than people living in metropolitan areas.

Below you’ll find some facts and links to studies:

  • Cheese is a rich source of essential nutrients; in particular, proteins, bioactive peptides, amino acids, fat, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
  • Ripened cheese is free of lactose.
  • There is evidence that two bioactive tripeptides, VPP and IPP, found in sour milk fermented with Lactobacillus helveticus, lower blood pressure.
  • The high concentration of essential amino acids in cheese contributes to growth an development of the human body.
  • Conjugated linoleic acid and sphingolipids present in cheese may have anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • The high concentration of calcium in cheese is well known to contribute to the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but also shows a positive effect on blood pressure and helps in losing weight in combination with low-energy diets.
  • Besides calcium, cheese is also a good source of phosphorus and zinc, and magnesium is also worth mentioning.
  • One portion of hard cheese contains 15% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, over 10% of B2, over 20% of B6 and almost 40% of the recommended value of B12 with an energy content of only 10% of the daily diet.
  • Caries is still the most prevalent dental disease. Chewing a piece of cheese after a sugary food brings plaque pH rapidly back to neutrality and helps prevent caries.
  • Overweight women who are looking to loose weight seem to benefit most from the intake of cheese: Regular consumption (≥ 1 serving·d−1) of whole milk, sour milk or cheese was inversely associated with weight gain in long term studies.
  • (“DASH”-Study) carried out between 1994 and 1996 demonstrated a dramatic blood pressure-lowering effect of a diet rich in dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
  • Female adolescents, limiting the intake of dairy products because of self-perceived milk intolerance, have a significantly lower intake of calcium as well as a significantly lower spinal bone mineral content than female adolescents without perceived milk intolerance.
  • Not only were Alp cheeses (seasonally produced, farmstead) highest in omega-3 fats, such as ALA, but they also had relatively low concentrations of saturated fats and arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that can promote inflammation in the body. As an unanticipated benefit, cheeses made from the milk of grass-fed cows during summers on the Alp exhibited the highest concentrations of the unusual trans fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), that a number of studies have linked with cancer prevention.

Links:

Swiss paradox
Comparison of milk
Comp. of organic and integrated farming
Gesundheitstipp: Alpkaese
Alpforum 2008
Dr. Thomas Westermair, muva Kempten

All about Transhumance

Transhumance, the move of animals and people up to higher altitudes during the summer, has many facets, different rules, terms or requirements. They differ not only by countries – Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. – in Switzerland the rules and traditions change from Canton to Canton: There are 26 Swiss Cantons, and in 14 of them transhumance takes place.

So this page is about details, differences, transhumance and its products in general as well as in the – sometimes minute – variations. Some things are rather “technical”, some strange for the modern world, some might put a smile on your face, others make you emotional.

As the title says: It’s a page to LEARN more about it, and Adopt-an-Alp as well, of course. And it’s a closer look into a wonderful and certainly healthier world.

Trischtä

“Trischtä” is a tradition that you find in some areas of the central Swiss Alps. A haystack is created and then covered with spruce twigs. It stays in the meadow until next January. Max Herger from Alp Ruosalp shot this video while building a Trischtä stack.


The Birth of a Calf

Transhumance 2017 is around the corner, and before it starts the Herger Family had reason to celebrate. The last calf was born in their winterhome before the move to Ruosalp. Watch the amazing short video and have a look at the pictures.

Making an Alpage

Watch the short video which explains the daily routine on an Alp to produce an Alpage cheese. As you will see it is following traditions that go back centuries as well as (paper-)work that accounts for the food requirements of our modern world.

The video is supplied by the SAV (Swiss Society of Alp Economy) and cannot be shown or reproduced without the written consent of Quality Cheese.

A Visit to Alp Heuboden

One of the highlights the winners of the 2015 Adopt-an-Alp contest experienced on their trip to Switzerland was definitely the visit of Alp Heuboden operated by the family of Fritz and Anna Tschudi-Gwerder. As one contestant said: “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Alpage L’Etivaz AOP – Long Tradition and Strict Regulations

Amongst the Alp cheeses L’Etivaz is certainly a special story. Created in the craggy mountains of the Alps of Canton Vaud and the Pays d’Enhaut it is one of the most searched for Alpage, not only in Switzerland, but worldwide: Alone the demand from the French would cover the yearly production of about 450 tons (almost 1 mio. lbs). No wonder Alpage L’Etivaz is one of the most expensive cheeses.

The people of this region are – well – stubborn, really stubborn. Even going back to the origins in the 15th, 16th century those dairy farmers resisted the mighty rulers from Berne. When sales dropped dramatically during the depression the farmers took action and founded a producer’s cooperative in 1932. Two years later the L’Etivaz cellars were built with a capacity to hold 2700 wheels. Twelve years later they were extended to store another 3000, and the next extension became necessary in 1974.

In 1986 a total of 14,000 wheels could be stored in one place, with better conditions for cheese and workers. However the demand further increased, and in 2012 the cellars from 1934 were replaced with a new facility holding over 16,000 rounds.

Although very similar to the Alpage Gruyère the coop always resisted to be included in that organisation. In 1992 new procedures and requirements in regard of milk production, cheesemaking, and aging were put into place to ensure consistent quality. That was also the base for the AOP application which was achieved on Sept. 24, 1999. L’Etivaz was the first food product in Switzerland to receive this recognition.

Those regulations are extremely strict, here just a few:

  • As opposed to the Gruyère the L’Etivaz has to be produced over an open fire.
  • The cows that are used for transhumance need a 3-week-period in which absolutely no silage feeding is allowed.
  • The production of Alpage L’Etivaz is allowed between May 10 and October 10, binding is the transhumance permit.
  • The evening milk may be only skimmed in a natural way and has to be cooled to a max of 18˙ Celsius in specific troughs.
  • Centrifuges are not allowed, neither are pasteurizers, the cheese has to be produced with raw milk.
  • “Sirtenrahm” (fat extracted from the whey) may not be added.
  • The milk may be stored for a max of 18 hours.
  • Only calf rennet without any GMO may be used.
  • All cultures must be permitted by the coop. No other substances may be used.
  • After mixing the cooled evening with the morning milk it must be heated in the cauldron to 32˙ (89.6 F, animal body temperature).
  • The curd is heated to a 57˙ (134.6 F)
  • A mechanic press has to be used for 20 hours
  • Bath in the brine with local salt for a minimum of 18 hours.
  • After aging on the Alp at temperatures of 10˙ – 16˙ (50 – 60.8 F) for seven days, wheels must be moved to the L’Etivaz cellars where they are aged for at least 135 days.

For more info go to: Etivaz-AOC

Wild Haying on Ruosalp

From Green to White

Cows eat grass in tufts, and they eat a lot! And this asks for a lot of ruminating. The indigestive material goes first to a temporary “storage”, the rumen where it is cut to bits and pieces. The cow then swallows that mush again and digests it in a truly refined stomach-intestine system. Per liter milk (1 quart) the cows heart needs to pump 500 liters (132 gl.) of blood through the glandular tissue into the udder. During that complex chemical procedure the milk turns white, without any artificial color, of course.

The milk consists of about 88% water, in average 3.3% protein, 3.5% fat and 4.8% milk sugar (lactose). It is also laden with minerals: With a 120 milligrams of Calcium per 100ml milk it is one of the calcium richest products. You get also Vitamins A, D, B1, B2, Bc, C and E.

(Source: Alpkäserei-Urnerboden.ch)

Participants of 2017

After an incredible 2016 where it has grown exponentially Adopt-an-Alp will achieve a new record in 2017: As of August 1, over 55 customers have committed and adopted one or more Alps.  That means that this fall Alpkäse will be sold in 115 locations nationwide. We are approached from both sides, farmers call us wanting to participate, new customers contacted us because they somehow got aware of the program. Our customer base consists of big retail chains, specialty stores, cheese shops, and restaurants. They can choose from 23 Alps.