Why 50 species of French cheese have vanished in the last 4 decades?
We all love cheese. Don’t we? And when we mention ‘cheese’ how can we forget the land of France, a country where people have been savouring cheeses since as long as they can imagine life. Cheese, in France, is not only a part of their tradition but it is a significant part of their culture. The French have innovated a multitude of cheese varieties that are famous across the globe since ages. But now, in the present times, if you search the streets of France, you will not be able to find a bleu de Termignon, a galette des Monts-d’Or or a vacherin d’Abondance even in the most elite cheese shops. This is indeed surprising and shocking for cheese lovers as it has been seen that these 3 conventional cheese varieties are among the 50 species of French cheese that have vanished since the last 4 decades.
1 Cheese devotees fear the disappearance of other popular French cheese varieties
With such a shocking revelation, cheese devotees are now fearing the inclusion of other delicious and traditional French cheese varieties entering into the extinct list; these include brie de Meaux, bleu de Auveregne, crottin de Chavignol along with an assortment of other varieties.
2 Uniqueness of French Cheeses!
Prince Charles, on his visit to the COP 21 Global Climate Conference in Paris expressed his love for French cheeses including Pont L’Eveque. He pointed that the distinct taste of French cheese is owed to the traditional way that goes into their making by using raw and unpasteurized milk. He even said that the survival of French cheese varieties is threatened by ‘bacteriological correctness’ of the European as well as the National Food Safety Regulation.
3 French cheeses are losing their genuineness
Studies have confirmed that presently only about 10% of the cheese that is consumed in France is genuine. This means that out of all the cheeses sold under the French cheese name, only 10% of them are made using untreated milk. In fact, the consumption of lait cru cheeses (cheese prepared with raw, unpasteurized milk) has been decreasing by 4% every year.
Many French cheeses that are sold under labels like fine wines and termed as “origin controlled” are actually mass produced with heat treated or pasteurized milk. While they do have their old, traditional names, only a fraction of the traditional taste and character exists in them. Real producers of cheese and campaigners confirm an increasing threat from the fussy EU and domestic health regulation. They say that the real trouble comes from the greedy large and powerful French dairy companies.
Herve Mons, which is an award winning manufacturer and global marketer of authentic French cheese varieties, has said that they are under constant pressure to apply the same standards used in factory made cheeses to their traditional cheeses. Moreover, there is no justification at all when it comes to health and other grounds.
The dairy industry influences the traditional makers to imply standards that would rob the real cheese of all their true character and quality, mainly because the factory used new standards can manufacture cheese more cheaply and profitably.
4 France is losing their traditional cheese makers
The sad news is that the modern day France is on the verge of losing all its traditional cheese makers as most of them have stopped working or have died. Celina Gagneux was the last manufacturer of the vacherin d’ Abondance, a richly textured creamy cheese that was so soft that it was eaten with a spoon. After her retirement, there came an end to a 200 year old unbroken tradition of cheese making in the cold mountains on the French side of the Lake Geneva. In fact, many of the traditional makers who made vacherin in the valely have all died. While the present makers do make vacherin d’ Abondance, they make a firmer variety as that is what the big buyers demand.
5 The real danger
If you want to purchase the real traditional tasting cheese in France you have to check the labels that mention it is made from “lait cru” or unpasteurized milk. Some shops do still sell such varieties. With such a thing, the reality is that the real danger is the conversion of the traditional French cheese qualities into something bland and characterless, something that betrays the French tradition.