What do robots do on a cheese plant and how to produce a truly delicious cheese? Aleksandr Gusev, the Governor of Voronezh oblast, has received the answers to these questions when he paid a call to EkoNiva’s cheesery located in Shchuchye village in the vicinity of Voronezh.
The public official together with representatives of the regional government and the Voronezh branch of Rosselkhozbank followed the path that milk takes before turning into cheese, from acceptance and laboratory testing to packaging and storing the finished product.
The production facility is completely new – the pilot batch of cheese was made in January and the plant itself was officially launched in April. Its manufacturing capacity amounts to 60 tonnes of raw milk daily, which makes it possible to produce 4 tonnes of semi-hard cheese and 2 tonnes of hard cheese, 6 tonnes per day in total. Today, the plant processes approximately 12 tonnes of milk daily. The investments in this project equaled 1 billion 117 million rubles. 95 specialists work on the cheesery including a German consultant with profound expertise in cheese making.
The delegation took interest in the cutting-edge equipment: the cheese line manufactured by Bertsch, a company of Austrian origin, the pressing machine made by the Swiss brand BamInox, but what honorary guests found the most exciting was a cheese robot produced by JNJ, another Swiss manufacturer. The latter is responsible for turning over cheese wheels, smearing them with a salt solution and Brevibacteria, cleaning and transporting them. Aleksey Prostyakov, Director of the cheese plant, notes that the robot handles 318 wheels per hour with a consistent quality of operation and at a given rate, which results in a uniform taste.
Cheese milk is supplied to the plant from EkoNiva’s own dairies located in the same district. The milk/raw material is selected according to 29 parameters which include the following: content of fat – no less than 3.5%, protein – no less than 3.3%, casein – 2.55%, rennet and rennet fermentation tests – Class 1.
It has been a month since Russian cheese and ice cream producers started using a special marking of quality named Chestny Znak which translates as Honest Sign. The Head of the region observed (how) the marking process takes place: the pattern is applied during the production flow without affecting the performance of the cheesery. Employees scan the marking code on each package before sending the products to the warehouse. Then, consumers can read this code with the help of a special application and obtain the product information and check it for authenticity.
The visit wrapped up with a tasting session where the guests sampled Shchuchanskiy and Kolybelskiy semi-hard cheeses and Duerr hard cheese named after the Director General of EkoNiva. The latter belongs to an elite cheese category, namely ‘Bergkaese’. This is the first time when Brevibacteria are used for its domestic production – these very bacteria give the product its intense aroma and flavour and facilitate the appearance of a distinctive pigment on the rind.
The Governor expressed his gratitude to Stefan Duerr for creating such state-of-the-art production and naming the cheeses after Kolybelka and Shchuchye villages situated in Liski district, thus adding to the popularity of the region.
By Svetlana WEBER