The dreams of two men to raise buffalo in the rich grassland of Ireland may have bemused many locals at first but it has proved to be a brilliant Irish success story with worldwide potential as it recently won big at Irelands most prestigious national food awards the IFWG.
The Irish Food Writer’s Guild (IFWG) food awards is regarded as one of the highest accolades within the Irish food industry and honors the work of Irelands artisan food producers, a key player whose produce can be found in many of Irelands world renowned food markets held nationwide .
Amongst the four producers awarded by the Irish Food Writer’s Guild (IFWG) food award, were Macroom based Toon Bridge Dairy for their Irish buffalo mozzarella cheese.
The Cork dairy which began production in 2011 is the result of a two-year collaboration between Real Olive Company founder Toby Simmonds and his neighbour, Johnny Lynch, a farmer. Both these enterprising men got together to bring the unlikely dream of importing buffalo in from Italy to graze and milk in Ireland to fruition. Enlisting the help of master cheesemaker Sean Ferry they have gone from skepticism to scintillating success with a product that is noted for its quality and distinctive taste which sets it apart from its original Italian counterparts.
For the cheese which has been sold to over 25 markets nationwide has it own distinctive Irish flavour originating from the fact that the Buffalos at Toon Bridge Dairy are kept, like most farm animals in Ireland, outside all year round grazing on our country’s rich grassland. It is a practice which helps give Irelands farm produce (be it milk or meat) a richer and distinctive flavour. This is more apparent in the buffalo mozzarella for whilst it is natural practice to feed animals outdoors in Ireland, grass-fed buffalo is a unusual in Italy where they are actually factory farmed, housed indoors all year round and fed in large sheds.
This added richness in the mozzarella cheeses flavour has not gone unnoticed with traditional mozzarella eaters from Italy. According to Toby they now “get Italian visitors coming back to us for cheese as they say it has something special above their own home produced stuff.” For a company who initially met skepticism with many believing it impossible to rear buffalo in Ireland they have proved to be another growing success story for Irish food produce helping to highlight Irelands longstanding dedication and tradition in producing top quality homegrown artisan food many of which can be found in our many award winning restaurants, celebrated food festivals and farmers markets.