A Catastrophe for Real Camembert

The PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) of one of France’s oldest, most renowned cheeses is about to be sold down the river to big industry. With new legislation that will enter into force in 2021, the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) has, in fact, authorized the use of pasteurized milk.

So it is that the battle undertaken a few years ago by raw milk producers against industrial production, which is now marketing its cheese under a name very similar to that of the PDO (“Camembert fabriquè en Normandie” alongside the “Camembert de Normandie” denomination), has been won by big industry, more specifically by the dairy multinational Lactalis, which produces 95% of all pasteurized Camembert.

The new legislation provides for two versions of the cheese: one made with pasteurized milk, 30% from local cows and the remaining 70% without indication (importable from anywhere in the world), and a high-quality raw milk one now christened “Véritable Camembert de Normandie.”

According to Véronique Richez Lerouge, journalist and president of the Fromages de Terroir organization, “this decision marks the end of the Camembert PDO.”

But that’s not all: To date the consequence of every case of “cohabitation” between raw milk and pasteurized products within a PDO––namely 50% of French denominations, including Pont l’Evêque, Neufchâtel, Saint Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, and Munster––has always been a drop in quality, tension among producers, and the marginalization and ultimate disappearance of craft cheesemakers.

Slow Food stands with small-scale cheesemakers and will do everything it can to save this great French product. The raw milk Camembert of the remaining two fermier (“farmhouse”) producers processing milk from their own cows boarded the Ark of Taste just a few days ago.

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