It sounds incongruous, but the famous French cheese lovers have “turned away” from one of their greatest culinary contributions. Since the blockade of France in mid-March, cheese consumption has decreased by almost 60%. As a result, an industry association warns that more than 5,000 tonnes of cheese could be wasted if they don’t start eating more – and quickly.
Typically among the world’s leading consumers, the French are now invited to do “what we can for cheese”. In addition to changing habits, restaurant closings and declining international trade have contributed to a drop in sales since the start of the pandemic, said Michel Lacoste, president of the National Council of Designations of Dairy Origin (CNAOL).
While firm cheeses like Comté or Beaufort can last for months unopened, soft cheeses – a particularly rich category in France, which includes camembert and brie – have a much shorter window. “For 80% of cheeses, the shelf life does not exceed eight weeks, and for some, even less than a month,” said CNAOL in a press release announcing its #fromagissons (“let’s act for cheese”) campaign aimed at drumming support the area.
As for Belgium
overabundance of fried potatoes
, which led farmers to promote the consumption of fries twice a week during the coronavirus crisis, the surplus of French cheeses strikes at the heart of the intangible cultural heritage. “Eat cheese, trade fairly to maintain French culture, French tradition, the French heritage that we all share,” said Lacoste.
The surplus of cheese is not limited to France. Apparently in direct opposition to our desires for comfort, the COVID-19 pandemic has led Canadians to eat less fries and cheese. While demand for milk has remained more or less the same, our appetite for cheese (and cream) has slowed significantly, said Mathieu Frigon, CEO and President of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada.
This dip is mainly due to the fact that we cook for ourselves, explains Jo-Ann McArthur, President of
Nourish Food Marketing
. Just as we tend to eat fries in fast food restaurants, we eat more cheese when we eat out than at home. “Part of it is that we just eat less, but in some ways it’s less accessible to us,” says McArthur. “Many channels where we normally buy cheese as consumers – farmers’ markets and shops – may not have been opened depending on your province.”
One of the main challenges faced by artisan cheese makers in particular is being able to connect with consumers. Some cheese makers, distributors and retailers now offer delivery (
has a continuous list of businesses across the country) to fill the void left by restaurant and farmer’s market closings.
For Ruth Klahsen, owner of
In Stratford, Ontario, the pandemic meant rethinking its business model, which was based on direct relationships with restaurants and farmers’ markets.
When restaurants closed or moved to delivery / takeout only, Klahsen began offering a $ 60 box of cheese for delivery to London, Stratford and Toronto. “People don’t push the price at all. It takes a bit of work and quite a bit of time, but it has been really effective. I would say it saved us, ”she says. But when it comes to industry-specific campaigns encouraging people to eat more of a certain food as a way to manage surpluses, she thinks we should take a broader view.
“My biggest concern is what food and agriculture will be like in 2021,” said Klahsen. The current situation, while undeniably a challenge, she adds, also presents opportunities. This is an opportunity to reconsider the way we engage in food systems. By purchasing any type of food – be it fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry, pork or dairy – we can choose to support like-minded producers.
“It shouldn’t just be dairy. I think it should relate to everything we consume. I don’t think dairy products trump beef or pork as long as they are durable. For me, it’s the ethics behind how things are produced and raised that matters more than what the goods are, “says Klahsen. “I like cheese. I love making cheese. But I think (these campaigns) should be about how we will actually live as consumers in the future. “
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020