Urstromkäse
A story of regional transformation

Urstromkäse<br>A story of regional transformation

 


Last week Yule and Paul - founders of the youngest cheese production Urstromkäse in Brandenburg won a super gold medal at the world cheese awards. You sure know the pricewinner Mulberry well, if not from our shop, probably because it has conquered Berlin’s gastronomy in the last year. How could one be surprised with this success story- Berlin has a hunger for cheese that cannot quite be satisfied with its surrounding land. Brandenburg is not a place with an old cheese culture comparable to the alpine lands. Due to low soil fertility and political history farms tend to be bigger than in the rest of the country. Today’s artisanal cheesemaking has mostly only begun after the end of the German Democratic Republic in 1989 (okay, according to EU terms, who claim tradition as a minimum of 30 years, this could already be called “traditional”). This makes it even more outstanding that a cheese from the land of rye would be rated under the world’s 88 best cheeses.

 

 





Who has ever visited Yule and Paul knows well how this is possible. They’re definitely the biggest cheese nerds around. When I got to visit them in the frame of the Symposium of Die Gemeinschaft e.V. this fall they invited the group to join them in one cheesemaking cycle. The technical detail with which they explained every step on the way, as well as their capacity to answer ANY kind of question was very impressive.  Paul has worked as a cheese consultant for many years and also co-authored the european guideline for good hygiene practice. Yule has worked for the best affineurs and cheesemongers around the world. This experience gives them such a wide understanding of cheesemaking and its variables that they could evaluate precisely which cheese types would be suitable to their ecosystem, their land, their production facilities and of course their cow breed and its milk.

 

 

 

 Yule and Paul 

 

However - in my eyes their biggest achievement lies in the way they have shown how the regional food system can be transformed. In collaboration with their neighbour and dairy-farmer Rainer Schmitt they have created a way out of a stuck system. 

Most dairy farmers have been forced to enlarge their animal stocks in order to survive with the low market price of milk. They have no say in the price- as they don’t negotiate with the end customer, but they can just sell all they have to the closest dairy at a price set by the latter (or by supermarket chains). Currently the market price for organic milk is at 43-44 cents. Most of the times, the money spent on the fodder is equally regulated by world market prices. The cow becomes a processing machine. Rainer is lucky to have enough land surrounding the farm to feed his cows through grazing in summer, so at least in this sense he’s a bit more independant. But he was sick of living on the financial edge for so many years, so he started to look for ways to market his milk more directly. Processing and marketing yourself gives a bigger share of the end price. Therefore he started by investing in a small processing facility. Finding skilled people capable of making a good product was a challenge at first. Until he met Yule and Paul last year.


Today he sells a share of his milk to Yule and Paul instead of the dairy. They have an agreement which allows him to get a better price for his product. But it’s more than that for him. Rainer is originally a breeder. When he came into the farm he slowly transformed the herd. Today all cows belong to the Jersey breed “except Rebecca, who is still black”. Jersey is a popular breed in cheesemaking as they provide fewer milk (around 20 liters/cow/day in comparison to up to 40liters in high-production Holstein cows) with a higher protein and fat content. Rainer is very proud of his herd and thought it was a waste to have his milk vanish in big anonymous tanks of a dairy. Now for the first time knows where his milk goes. He’s proud of the cheeses that enjoy popularity in the village’s cheese shop - and happy to taste a product from his own herd. 


Yule and Paul brought in the best of the cheese worlds expertise into this dozy town. The dairy lies within a very oldschool restaurant that seems to still be filled with Schlager sounds from the last golden wedding celebrated here. They have shown that it’s possible to get out of the running wheel of dairy production with their passion. For us, they’re a pioneer example that give inspiration for how small food crafts can create new value and a more direct connection to our food. We’re very excited to sell their cheeses and can’t wait for more of Yule’s and Paul’s experiments to come. 

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