France has famously strict standards for how its quality cheeses are made, but some cheesemakers say they’re getting harder and harder to meet.
French cheesemakers told The New York Times that climate change is impacting their ability to follow traditional methods for quality cheeses, including some of the 46 cheeses that carry the prestigious AOP label, which stands for “Appellation d’Origine Protegee” or “Protected Designation of Origin.”
Cheeses that carry an AOP label, such as Camembert de Normandie and Roquefort, have to meet certain standards and quality levels. These standards may cover all stages of cheesemaking, including the types of milk-producing animals and what they eat.
Now, some cheesemakers argue that these rules need to change as the hotter summers and dry conditions are killing off some pastures.
“The whole system was built on the fact that we had certain cereals and hay available — all the rules were written with that in mind,” Simon Bouchet, from the association for the French goat cheese Picodon, told the outlet. “But with climate change and droughts, all that has been called into question.”
The Times reported that the standards for one specific type of French cheese required cows to graze on a mountain pasture for seven months. However, there was no longer enough grass, so the cheesemakers stopped producing the cheese altogether.
After the heatwave of last summer, certain cheese associations received permission from regulatory bodies to deviate from rules. Other cheesemakers are experimenting to see how they can produce the same quality product and still meet the traditional rules, despite changes in the environment.
” “We’re studying every aspect of cheeseability”, a goat farmer working at an experimental farm said to the Times. A cheese farm is testing if it can achieve the same result with goat milk that is grazed on drought resistant crops such as sorghum. This isn’t typically grown in France.
“We’ve assembled a jury of experts that will taste test the cheese to make sure it follows all the rules,” the cheesemaker said. “They have about 20 criteria of taste.”
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