Globalization battle – corporation vs. artisan – over French cheese

Philippe Alléosse’s cellar in Paris is an Aladdin’s cave for lovers of French cheese.

His temperature- and humidity-controlled subterranean storage rooms in the 17th Arrondissement are packed with carefully aged varieties, among them Brin d’Amour from Corsica, Bethmale from the Pyrénées and Bleu de Gex from Haut-Jura. He knows just when to add a dash of water or Chablis to the rind and when the product should finally be released to the public.

But Alléosse, premier maître artisan fromager affineur, or master cheese ager, fears that he is one of a dying breed.

He is worried that industrial processes – from sourcing through production and distribution – are squeezing small farmers and threatening to deny consumers the choice, complexity and quality of a product that is considered a luxury in many countries but a staple on French tables…

The debate seems to go to the heart of an acutely French dilemma: whether to embrace globalization, or to fight to preserve heritage. For now, the tussle is centered on the process of pasteurization and the effect that it is having on the product and the market.

Raw milk is the battlefield,” said Pierre Boisard, a sociologist who is author of “Camembert: A National Myth.” One mass producer in particular, Lactalis, has altered the landscape through its production of traditional products using industrial methods, he said.

“It’s a problem,” he added. “It hurts the brands of the traditional producers” who have “legitimate grievances.”

Generally, this is an apples vs. oranges battle. The small artisan producers don’t have the contamination problems afflicting mass-producers, no need for pasteurization. The heavy hitters like Lactalis use the safety smear as a club to cut traditional producers out of the marketplace.

We went through this for years with prosciutto from Italy and still have problems trying to get traditional Jambon from Spain. Because of the same tricks played by American meatpackers – and their wonderful record of cleanliness and safety. Hah!

Read the whole article. Lots of info.

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