Cheese-lovers, you might want to sit down for this one. Apparently camembert is on its way to extinction and what you think is real camembert is most likely an imposter.
According to Bloomberg, only around 1% of the 360 million camembert wheels produced a year are genuine, and that number is set to fall even further.
Real camembert is called ‘Camembert de Normandie’ and stamped with the PDO label, which stands for ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ and guarantees a product has been made in a certain region in a historically accurate way.
A true PDO-stamped Camembert de Normandie is created under strict conditions. It must be made from unfiltered raw milk, with a fat content of at least 38%, and come from Normandy cows fed only grass and hay from local pastures. The milk cannot be transported further than a cow can walk and must be hand-ladled into specific moulds in four or more layers.
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of producers still making ‘real’ camembert, and what you’re buying in the supermarket is probably not legit.
In 2007, large cheese companies fought to change French law. They wanted to be allowed to use pasteurised milk in their camembert, instead of raw milk, to cut costs. Small producers and local farms contested their court case, arguing that the microorganisms in raw milk create soft, flavoursome cheese.
The French government decided in favour of the little guy, ruling that only raw milk could be used in an official PDO camembert. But it didn’t stop the large companies from producing plastic-y camembert, and switching the name slightly.
So what’s the solution? According to cheese author Francis Percival, to help something survive, we need to buy more of it. So there you have it: The perfect excuse to eat more proper camembert.
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