Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being. As Rome's influence receded, distinct local cheesemaking techniques emerged. This diversity reached its peak in the early industrial age and has declined somewhat since then due to mechanization and economic factors.
Cheese has served as a hedge against famine and is a good travel food. It is valuable for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is lighter , more compact, and has a longer shelf life than the milk from which it is made. Cheesemakers can place themselves near the center of a dairy region and benefit from fresher milk, lower milk prices, and lower shipping costs. The substantial storage life of cheese lets a cheesemaker sell when prices are high or when money is needed.

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