Letter from Raleigh: ACS conference highlights
The entire culture crew is in Raleigh, North Carolina, right now, OD’ing on dairy, and I’ve been tasked with providing all y’all with a daily rundown of the 29th annual American Cheese Society conference. Here's a highlights reel for Day One.
Although many of us were in transit August 1st, early arrivals had the option of partaking in additional-fee events such as the Chapel Hill Farm-to-Market tour, a Curds & Beer: Raleigh-Durham Pub Crawl, or, for the truly masochistic, the inaugural Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) exam.
Things really kicked off on Thursday, with a brilliant keynote address by Colorado State University Professor of Animal Science and author Temple Grandin, one of the world’s most accomplished, high-functioning autistic adults.
In her talk, Grandin, who is best-known for her work promoting humane livestock animal husbandry and improving standards within slaughterhouses, challenged cheese industry professionals of all backgrounds to not let negative Big Ag propaganda distract us from making improvements within the small farms sector. “I wish Big and Small Ag would stop throwing stones at one another,” she said. “You’re all in agriculture.”
As cheese professionals, Grandin encouraged us to both educate ourselves as well as consumers about livestock management, behavior, and biology, so that we can help prevent and reduce pervasive misconceptions (an excellent example was using the term, “hormone-free milk” in dairy and cheese advertising. “All milk contains natural hormones,” Grandin pointed out. “A better term would be, “No added hormones.”)
Knowledge is power, as they say, and I personally came away from Grandin’s address with a new perspective on how I’ll approach the continuing education work I do within the cheese and food industry.
The line-up of morning and early afternoon seminars included “Handling Cheese in a Retail Environment,” North Carolina Wine & Cheese,” “Sensory & Technical Evaluation of Quality in Affinage,” and “Managing Successful Promotions.” Some of us (okay, me) slipped off to sample the local barbecue culture at the classic local dive, Clyde Cooper’s, in between sessions. Nothing like a pound of chopped pork to cure afternoon sleepiness!
The day’s events concluded with “Meet the Cheesemaker,” which featured a line-up dozens of large and small producers from across the North America. Attendees had the opportunity to taste difficult-to-find cheeses, and personally meet the people responsible for crafting them. With hundreds of cheeses on hand, it’s tough to pick favorites, but rest assured you’ll be reading about them in future issues of culture. My personal faves were Tarentaise Reserve, a sharp, buttery, alpine cow’s milk from Vermont’s Thistle Hill Farm/Spring Brook Farm, Caves of Faribault’s Gouda (Minnesota), and Kunik, a luscious bloomy-rind goat from New York’s Nettle Meadow Dairy.
Things wrapped up with an evening of North Carolina barbecue and live music. Stay tuned for details on Day 3!