France’s Cheese War Means True Camembert May Disappear Forever

Image courtesy of domainesterroirs

First of all, nobody panic: The soft cheese you know as Camembert won’t be vanishing from grocery cases anytime soon. But its more authentic, raw milk, French cousin is facing extinction as the result of a cheese war that took place a decade ago.

Yes, there was a cheese war, reports Bloomberg, between the farms that wanted to stick to the historically accurate process for making traditionally unpasteurized Camembert, and those that wanted to cut corners and produce pasteurized cheese.

The smaller cheesemakers won: In order to earn the French label “PDO” — which signifies provenance from a specific region in France — and thus, be a true Camembert de Normandie, the French government said that cheese must be made with unfiltered raw milk with a fat content of at least 38% that comes from cows from Normandy, which are fed only grass and hay from local pastures, among a slew of other restrictions.

Those strict limitations prompted several of the larger cheesemakers to drop out of the authentic Camembert game, and turn to producing a pasteurized version that results in a harder rind with a more rubbery texture inside, notes Bloomberg. It’s known as Camembert fabrique en Normandie.

Of the 360 million wheels of Camembert produced each year, only about 1.1% (4 million) are the authentic unpasteurized cheese, with many of the smaller companies losing out to larger operations that favor pasteurization.

But even if you wanted to get the real deal in the U.S., you can’t, as the federal government doesn’t allow unpasteruized cheeses aged less than 60 days into the country. True Camembert is only aged for 30 days or so.

So if you’d like to pay homage to this special fromage, you may want to consider a cheese pilgrimage to France in the near future.