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 a 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 cheesemongers by shedding a realistic light on everyday life on the Alp. Through telling the story of each family, sharing photos and updates, both cheesemongers 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.
It’s easy. Go to the AaA contact page and contact us. 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 – as 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 you take it from your respective distributor by the end of the year. Cheeses produced last summer or before will be available in the US in early October, this summer’s production at the beginning of November.
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.
In order to help you choose we have created a “Who is Who” table where you find more details about the specifics of each Alp.
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.
All cheeses belonging to Adopt-an-Alp are exported through InterCheese AG.
Adopt-an-Alp by Quality Cheese is officially supported and promoted by “Schweizer Alpkäse” organization Alpkäse.ch, the agency supported by the Swiss government and in charge of the protection and marketing of Alpkäse.
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 healthily. 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:
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” 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.
Transhumance 2017 is around the corner, and before it starts the Herger Family had reason to celebrate. The last calf was born in their winter home before the move to Ruosalp. Watch the amazing short video and have a look at the pictures.
Watch the short video which explains the daily routine on an Alp to produce 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.
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!”
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 organization. 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:
For more info go to: Etivaz-AOC
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 cow’s heart needs to pump 500 liters (132 gals.) 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, on average 3.3% protein, 3.5% fat, and 4.8% milk sugar (lactose). It is also laden with minerals: With 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.
COVID-19 has led to a late start of the Adopt-an-Alp program this year. Nevertheless, by now we have 70 customers (AaA parents, that is).