The results of a scientifical research show that it exists a tight correlation between farming methods and the quality of sheep milk. It seems that extensive methods bring about a better product. This is shown also by the last studies related to this topic, especially those commissioned by the Consortium for the Protection of Pecorino Toscano DOP to the University of Parma and Florence, as well as to the Scuola Superiore Sant’anna in Pisa.
The idea of the Consortium comes from the need to understand whether it was necessary to insert scientific innovations and technologies in the productive chain, in order to improve the product and always focusing on the well-being of the sheeps.
Experts and researchers agree on common results: the more animals are feeded properly and can stay open-air, the higher is the quality of Pecorino. The half-extensive system, mainly composed of grassland-grazing, which is the one used in Toscana, is excellent for features of the sheep milk, which consequentely defines the nutritional and organoleptic characteristics of the Pecorino Toscano DOP.
In particular, this type of farming can provide animals with a constant quantity of “good fats”, that is the fatty acid Omega 3 and the connected linoleic acid (CLA). When the fresh grass is the main food, the milk is consequentelly rich in vitamin A, that we can found in the fat component of the cheese. This means that the regural consumption of Pecorino can potentially cover the need the vitamin A. It is also important to remind the main feature of all types of cheese: the presence of caltium, an important ingredient for humans’ health. In the Pecorino Toscano DOP is possible to find lot of caltium (about 1%) and in a form that can be easily assimilated. About 30 g are enough to match the daily need of an adult woman.
The role of animal feed
Another fundamental aspect for the quality of sheep milk and the Pecorino is the mixing of animal feed, used during no-grazing periods. Through vegetal oils and half-oily components, it is possible to keep a high level of quality of the fat portion. Flax seeds (rich in Omega3) are very effective as long as the so called fat portion is concerned, and the soya oil can also contribute to the increase of “good fats” up to the 200% and can reduce, at the same time, the negative portion up tp 25%.
[Picture owned by the Consortium for the Protection of Pecorino Toscano DOP]