Creamy, crumbly or tart, cheese has an irreplaceable part in our lives. In Turkey, it is a way of life. We take a look at three non-traditional producers.

Rani Farm was founded in 1994 by businessman F Yilmaz Sezer in Antalya’s Manavgat Evrenseki district, at the foot of the Toros mountain range in southern Turkey.

Initially serving five-star hotels on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey in Antalya, the farm has become an operation with national sales, spread out on 280,000 square metres that processes 10,000 liters of milk per day.

Amidst 35,000 trees, Rani Farm raises 4,000 animals (sheep, goats, cows and buffalo) and produces the traditional cheeses of Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The farm also has its own biogas electric terminal and refinery.

In a statement shared with TRT World, Rani Farm has defined its mission as “creating healthy products respecting all kinds of life from plants to people, being environmentally friendly, innovative, ecological, sustainable and with responsible investments, being a leader in our sphere.”

Rani Farm has introduced Turkish-made Parmesan, Gouda, Edam, Maasdam, Mozzarella, Emmental, Mimolette, Cheddar, and Tavva (equivalent of Raclette) cheeses to the local market, and has contributed to the country’s economy by decreasing imports by 70 percent. The farm makes 60 types of cheese.

A collection of Rani Farm cheeses.
A collection of Rani Farm cheeses. (Courtesy of Rani Farm)

According  to a statement by Rani Farm, it takes 12 kilograms of milk to make one kilogram of gouda cheese, while parmesan cheese requires 16 kilograms of high quality milk for one kilogram yield.

Rani Farm’s Marketing Manager Mehmet Aktas, who says their work is “a labour of love” points out that parmesan cheese that takes 12 months to age in Italy only takes 10 months in Antalya, Turkey thanks to the milk quality in their farm.

Rani Farm also produces meat and charcuterie products, yogurt from goat, sheep, buffalo and cow’s milk, as well as organic vegetable, fruits and olive oil. The company is capable of processing 200 tonnes daily biogas waste into 500 kW/hr of electricity.

Introducing Turkish Brie

Established in 2019 as part of Bize Group Companies, MKP is located in Bursa’s Mustafakemalpasa district, in the northeastern Marmara Region of Turkey.

The factory is spread out over 85,000 square metres of which 17,000 square metres is enclosed spaces, and has a capacity of processing 250 tonnes of milk a day.

MKP has two brands: Kirmasti –– the old name of Mustafakemalpasa –– focuses on traditional Turkish cheese production such as white cheese (similar to Feta cheese), kashar (kasseri) cheese, ‘toast’ cheese (for making paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches) and lor cheese, known for its nutritious yet low-fat qualities.

MKP General Manager Murat Acir tells TRT World that ‘classical Turkish white cheese’, the highest-quality Turkish white cheese, aged for a year, is slowly losing its market share due to its higher sales price than other types of white cheese. He says that Kirmasti’s Turkish style cheese production line focuses on making the ‘classical Turkish white cheese’ popular again.

Casari Artisan Cheese company's Brie is produced in Bursa, Turkey.
Casari Artisan Cheese company's Brie is produced in Bursa, Turkey. (Courtesy of MKP Sut)

As for Casari –– ‘cheesemakers’ in Italian –– Artisan Cheese, the brand currently produces Brie, Camembert, Brie de Meaux, Tomme and Raclette cheeses in Turkey, rivalling in taste European imported cheeses, with the help of a master cheesemaker educated in France.

Acir, who has been in the business for 30 years, says there hadn’t been a market for European style cheeses in Turkey in the past but now the time is ripe. He adds that imported cheeses, of which 5,000 tonnes enter Turkey tax-free every year thanks to trade agreements with Europe, do not meet the demand, and that further cheese imports are taxed at 138 percent, which puts the price tags beyond what most Turks can afford.

Acir says that the MKP Milk Products has made a great investment in producing European-style cheeses. He points out that cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and Roquefort (Gorgonzola) have an aging period of 45 to 60 days, while cheeses they have just started producing such as Gruyere and Parmesan won’t be in the market for a full year.

According to Acir, cheesemaking takes more capital than just building a factory; he says one must be prepared to wait for cheese to be market-ready, shelling out for overhead and production costs in the meantime.

Acir says MKP’s aim is threefold: to introduce cheeses that had previously only been on the market as imports to the wider Turkish public; to prevent foreign currency from leaving Turkey; and to bring in foreign currency to Turkey by exporting to Europe and Gulf countries.

Cheese without milk -– Orfa the Standard Vegan

As with many other countries in the world, Turkey too is seeing a rise in the number of people who are adapting a vegan lifestyle or showing an interest and trying to be more animal and environmentally friendly.

Being vegan means not consuming any animal products, be they meat, cheese, milk or other kinds of dairy. More dedicated vegans also shun clothing made from animal products such as leather, wool and silk.

Enter Orfa the Standard Vegan, a company that produces vegan ‘cheddar’, plain, ‘mozzarella’ and ‘with herbs’ cheeses which do not use any milk but instead rely on plant protein and oils.

Orfa the Standard Vegan's mozzarella flavoured dairy free, vegan 'cheese'.
Orfa the Standard Vegan's mozzarella flavoured dairy free, vegan 'cheese'. (Courtesy of Orfa the Standard Vegan)

Orfa the Standard Vegan is a brand that belongs to Orfam Inc, a US company, but its production as a licenced company is in Turkey. It was established in 2019, and is working on getting a V-Label certification.

The company says it regrets that it has to import its ingredients but that it’s necessary because they are unable to source clean and sustainable ingredients locally.

Orfa the Standard Vegan also makes meat alternatives: vegan meatless ‘burger’ and vegan meatless ‘meatballs’ based on soy and pea proteins. In a statement to TRT World, the company says they are looking into ways of producing other products in demand in Turkey, such as plant-based 'milks'.

The company currently produces five tonnes of vegan dairy free cheeses, five tonnes of vegan meatless products and 5 tonnes of vegan sauces a month. In a statement to TRT World, Orfa the Standard Vegan has said that its products have received positive feedback and are popular with vegans as well as people who cannot consume milk such as the lactose-intolerant.