What is hay milk? – Salt and pepper – Italian Cuisine

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Naturally organic, with very high nutritional values ​​and a rich and creamy taste, this milk boasts the name STG, Traditional Specialty Guaranteed thanks to the strict discipline imposed on producers by the European Union in 2016. On our mountains, small virtuous realities produce it in the name of an organic and sustainable agriculture, sensitive to the well-being of the cows.

The hay milk it is produced by cows that feed mainly on fodder without silage (fermented foods), their feeding is in fact based on grass, fresh herbaceous species and a small amount of ground cereals. Free of all types of GMOs and fermented feed, milk production takes place in respect for cows, which are cared for with care and attention.

Since March 2016, the European Union has defined hay milk, and the products deriving from it, "Guaranteed Traditional Speciality", with the right to bear the STG denomination on the label – naturally on condition that the products meet all the requirements of the rigid legislation European regulation of the sector.

In Italy, in South Tyrol, 5000 family-run farms are committed to guaranteeing the high quality of this milk every day, which is processed in the dairies by skilled hands only 24 hours after milking. These are small sustainable farms that for some years have chosen to return to produce the milk as it used to be, that is the hay milk, thanks also to the European recognition (here we speak of noble milk)

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What is that

As a food, hay milk – compared to conventional milk – offers one highest quality, a full-bodied taste and greater digestibility. Rich in precious micronutrients such as Omega 3, hay milk has a double quantity of nutrients, while the low bacterial load makes it ideal also for raw milk cheesemaking. In fact, this type of milk hardly contains unwanted bacteria that could interfere with the maturation of the cheese; the risk of obtaining cheeses with an unpleasant taste is also severely reduced. Moreover, being biological and not containing pesticide and herbicide residues, hay milk does not subject us to the risk of contamination by synthetic chemicals.

The traditional model of farming

Since the 1950s, in most of the farms, especially the intensive ones, to increase milk production, the cows are fed with industrial feed, maize and soy mixtures and fermented fodder. The milk produced by this diet has lost a lot in taste, complexity and nutritional values ​​compared to what arrived on the tables of our grandparents, which smelled of cream and grass.

As indicated by the certification of Guaranteed Traditional Specialty, on certified farms for the production of hay milk, the one-time model is followed: in spring and summer the cows, free to graze, eat fresh grass and the flowers of mountain meadows; in the cold winter period they stay for long periods in the stable and are fed mainly with dry grass (hay) dried in the sun and in barns in a natural way. There is no lack of contributing to animal welfare spring water and months of life on the pasture. The strict production regulations for "hay milk" require that the quantity of feed be reduced to a maximum of 25% in favor of grass and hay, and prohibits the use of GMOs and fermented foods called silage (ie the hermetically sealed hay in the large cylinders wrapped in nylon that we are used to seeing in the fields, a preservation technique that causes a fermentation process that profoundly modifies the herbaceous essences of the closed hay).

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Who produces it

The hay milk is collected from nine dairy cooperatives (Latte Montagna Alto Adige – Mila, Bressanone Milk Center Brimi, Latteria Vipiteno, Latteria Merano, Latteria Tre Cime Mondolatte, Latteria Lagundo, Latteria Burgusio, Caseificio Sesto and Caseificio Val Passiria) and transformed, according to the standards, into numerous fresh derived products. From milk to yogurt, from mozzarella to butter and mascarpone, these are products that symbolize the authenticity and genuineness of this territory. Some products are already available on the national market such as the mozzarella da Latte Fieno del Bressanone Milk Center – Brimi or the "Latte Fieno – several days" of Latte Montagna Alto Adige – MILA, as well as the Latte Fieno yogurt in different flavors of Latteria Merano and of Latteria Vipiteno.

A part of the milk is supplied to Black Elk, the company that has been fighting for organic and sustainable agriculture since 1978, which turns it into organic yogurt. The final product, on which the wording "hay milk" is printed and the name STG, is sold to a slightly higher price because, it must be remembered, cows fed almost exclusively with fresh grass and hay according to the disciplinary, naturally produce less milk than an intensive breeding (about half).

Brimi, has created a special product, mozzarella made with hay milk, coming 100% from the mountain farms of South Tyrol. A mozzarella with an authentic, fresh and delicate taste and a soft and elastic consistency that hides all the flavor of the mountain.

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Ideal for the environment

The production of hay milk is in total harmony with the planet, certified with the South Tyrol Quality Label, is a milk that embodies all the values ​​of this territory: genuine, natural, respectful of ancient traditions and at the same time innovative and sustainable. The entire South Tyrolean dairy sector is committed to protecting nature and protecting the well-being of cows, respecting biodiversity and the territory in which it is located.

Francesca Tagliabue
February 2018

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