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Why sheep milk is Mediterranean ‘par excellence’

Sheep milk is Mediterranean par excellence as it has always been consumed in this region and as a result Italians have perfectly adapted to it. The milk of small ruminants, particularly species of sheep, is of significant economic interest in the Mediterranean basin which accounts for roughly 73% of world production.

The consumption of this food is popular as it is widely available in addition to being the main ingredient of food products such as cheese. What is more, it is well suited for solving problems linked to malnutrition, especially in children.

It is a well-known fact that the quantity and quality of the milk of ruminants depends on several variable factors including diet, which is of utmost importance, particularly amongst sheep prevalently raised on pastures where seasonal variations can considerably influence production.

Today sheep milk is almost entirely processed into dairy products as it is has been replaced by cow’s milk. One need only consider that in the Mediterranean region the consumption of cow’s milk began just 70 or so years ago. Before then cows were used as working animals and only their calves that drank cow’s milk.

As far as the production of sheep milk is concerned, the priority is to obtain – by means of a specific animal food plan – high production levels with a maximum protein and fat content as it is the latter which determines both the yield and physical/chemical quality of the cheese.

It appears that organisms better adapt to food which has historically played a part in the diet of civilisations. Fish, olive oil, red wine and even sheep milk are just some of the key elements of Italy’s diet, the cornerstone of the Mediterranean ecosystem.