What next for Artisan British Cheese?

Raw Milk Goat's Cheese

Artisan cheese was at the vanguard of the renaissance of British Food with Neal’s Yard Dairy a central player in this success.  Now that the renaissance is in full flow, with even our sparkling wine giving Champagne a good run for its money, are things still moving on for those early cheese pioneers?  You bet they are.

On 19th/20th August Neal’s Yard Dairy has organised their second conference for farmhouse cheese makers to explore the latest scientific theories and develop practical solutions to ensure that their businesses remain sustainable.  The programme is impressive, with speakers from around the world, but the topic that is exciting more interest than any other is the potential role of microbes in raw milk to creating a safer product.

Artisan cheese makers have long known that these microbes contribute hugely to the flavour and character of raw milk cheeses, but up until now this had to be weighed against a potential risk to human health.  The general approach has therefore been to produce milk that is as “clean” as possible, i.e. to reduce the total number of microbes present.  Now it appears that scientists in France have found that some microbes in raw milk benefit not only the flavour of the cheese but also the safety by forming a natural barrier to pathogens.  This makes perfect sense to me when we consider the human gut and the belief that we have interfered with the body’s own natural defence system with excessive “cleanliness”.   Furthermore, these scientists have been able to pin point which microbes are responsible for what and from where, within the production process, each microbe arises.  So it should be possible to be more selective about which are desirable.  Different methods of animal husbandry, breed characteristics, and feed are just some of the variables that have been more scientifically assessed for their microbial contribution.

This information is contained within a book, written in French.  Now Bronwen Percival of Neal’s Yard Dairy has instigated a Kickstarter project to have the book translated into English.  A pledge of £40 will entitle you to a copy of the book although pledges from just £1 are welcomed, see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1032957974/raw-milk-microbiology-for-cheesemakers for further information.

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