Halloumi cheese gets a helping hand from science
Scottish scientists have joined a Europe-wide bid to secure the future supply of Cyprus’ finest food export – halloumi cheese.
Traditional halloumi is made of goat and sheep milk. However, in recent years, the product that gets to the supermarket shelves generally has a large proportion of cheaper and more widely available cow’s milk.
The research project aims to boost milk yields from local breeds of goats and sheep in Cyprus so that demand can be fulfilled. Researchers are to help farmers design selective breeding programmes by investigating genetic differences that are linked to increased milk production.
Experts will also assess how animal feeds can be improved to optimise milk yield and how soils in Cyprus can be enriched by adding beneficial species of bacteria and fungi.
The AGRICYGEN partnership – funded by the European Union – connects research institutions in Cyprus with world-leading experts in agricultural genetics from the UK, France and Germany. The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute is among those taking part.
A new research centre will be set up in Cyprus to increase the country’s capacity for analysing animal and plant genomes. The centre will also train early career scientists.
Halloumi makes an important contribution to the Cypriot economy, accounting for more than 15 per cent of the total domestic exports. The UK is the number one export market for the cheese.
Cyprus has applied for halloumi to be recognised with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status – a European Union award designed to protect traditional, regional foods against imitation.
It would stipulate that halloumi must be produced predominantly from Cypriot sheep and goat milk.
If the PDO is granted, milk production from Cypriot sheep and goat breeds will need to increase substantially to ensure that current demand for halloumi cheese is satisfied.