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Hygienic cheese production

Product analysis

The market
Most of the Quesillo cheese made in Yanacancha is bought by intermediaries at a Saturday market in Chanta Alta, a nearby town. They sell it on in Cajamarca, where it is either bought by cheese producers as an ingredient for buttery cheese, or is sold to local people for consumption. There is one buttery cheese producer in Chanta, but he only buys a tiny proportion of the Quesillo.

The producers of the improved Quesillo are currently looking for a more secure market for their cheese and are hoping to sell it directly in Cajamarca or coastal towns, cutting out the intermediaries.

There are also plans to set up a production plant for milk by-products or buttery cheese in Chanta.

Technical specification
Product life: just two to four days
Price of traditional cheese: 1 sol per kg (in winter); 4.5 soles per kg (in summer)
Price of improved cheese: 1.1 soles per kg (in winter); 5 soles per kg (in summer)

This dramatic price variation is caused by changes in the weather. In the rainy season (the winter), more fodder is available for the cows, milk production increases, more cheese is made, and its price falls. In the summer, cheese is harder to make, so prices rise.

Product function
The traditional Quesillo is not good enough quality for people to eat directly. Instead it is used as an ingredient in the production of better quality buttery cheese.

The improved Quesillo is eaten by local people as part of their diet and used for cooking.

Quesillo is made from:
Sieving cheese through muslin cloth

In the past, 10kg of milk were needed to make 1kg of cheese. Today, thanks to the improved technology, an average of 8kg of milk are needed to make 1kg of cheese (some producers use as little as 6kg).

The following equipment is used to make Quesillo:
Materials needed for making Quesillo

The cheese-makers in Yanacancha follow these steps.
To ensure that the cheese is safe to eat, hygiene is very important at every stage of the production process.

When milking cows, it is important that hands, utensils, udders and the milking environment are clean. The milk is then kept cold to prevent bacteria forming. Before it is used for cheese-making, the following quality control tests are carried out on the milk.
A test is carried out to make sure that the cow that produced the milk does not have mastitis (a disease of the udder). Five drops of surgical alcohol are mixed with five drops of milk, and the mixture is then stirred and put onto a glass plate. If lumps form within a minute, or if the milk thickens and becomes dark, it is not used for cheese-making.

In the past, the quality of Quesillo suffered because of poor hygiene (dirty utensils, animals in the cheese-making area, not enough quality control tests on the milk). As a result, the market price of the cheese was low.

The final cheese is neither cooled or frozen.

Testing the temperature

The Quesillo is pressed into an oval shape so that it is a convenient size and shape for sale. Its appearance is not of prime importance - it is not competing with other cheeses in the marketplace and is not packaged for sale.

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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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