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CheeseBoard 2015: Teagasc Coordinates €1.3m Cheese Research Project

Teagasc will coordinate a major new €1.3 million national research project, titled ‘National Cheese Research Programme 2015’. Dr Phil Kelly, coordinator of the project, said: “The Irish Cheese Research Consortium (ICRC) embraces the Irish dairy industry’s forecast (reflected in Food Harvest 2020) for significant expansion in cheese production, both in overall volume and in specific varieties, over the next 10 years.”

The timeline for the research programme reflects the imminent opportunities and challenges that the Irish dairy industry faces with EU milk quotas ending in 2015. Five academic and research institutions on the island of Ireland will combine their respective competencies to provide an integrated approach to challenges in cheese research that are deemed critical for the future development of this food industry.

The participating research teams that constitute the ICRC include: Teagasc Food Research Programme Moorepark and Ashtown, University College Cork, University of Limerick, University College Dublin and Agri-Food BioSciences Institute (AFBI, Northern Ireland).

The project will be guided throughout its four-year duration through market intelligence and consumer interaction. Stakeholder representation includes cheese manufacturers, participating research institutions, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and a Food Institution Research Measure/Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine representative.
The research programme will be accomplished by means of six tasks. Three tasks on the scientific and health aspects of natural cheeses, along with a task on processed cheese, will be informed by the outcomes of consumer studies. A separate task, involving Teagasc and AFBI, sets out to develop a rapid assay for trans fatty acids (TFA), which should also be capable of differentiating between naturally-occurring TFA in milk fat (healthy form) and those originating from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils.

Other elements of the programme will examine ways to improve the texture of reduced fat cheese, as well as investigations into the positive role of dietary milk calcium in weight management.

Dr Kelly said: “The consortium is well positioned to support immediate work on the production of reduced-fat, low-salt cheese variants to address growing health concerns, as well as addressing long-term cheese diversification opportunities.”

The article ‘CheeseBoard 2015’ is featured in the spring 2012 issue of TResearch, Teagasc’s research and innovation magazine available online at: TResearch