Ballybrie production ends with Fivemiletown closure
Dale Farm’s decision to close Northern Irish speciality cheesemaker Fivemiletown has been slammed by the local union and lamented by the country’s artisan cheese sector.
The large dairy co-operative, which bought Co Tyrone-based Fivemiletown in 2014, plans to close the site this month when the lease comes up for renewal, arguing that production there was “no longer feasible”.
The company has offered Fivemiletown’s 18 staff transfers to other locations or redundancy packages, but union Unite described the decision as “a body-blow to the local agri-food economy” and “a blatant case of asset-stripping”.
Fivemiletown can trace its history back to 1898 and was one of the country’s first speciality cheesemakers, well-known for soft cheeses Ballybrie, Ballyblue and oak-smoked Ballyoak.
These products will all now be discontinued, with only goat’s cheese production moved to Dale Farm’s facility in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.
“It’s a real loss and is going to leave a gap in our counter,” said Mark Brown, owner of Belfast-based Arcadia Deli. “Ballybrie was one of our best sellers and we used it a lot for wedding towers.”
Northern Irish food writer Sam Butler described the closure as a “big blow” to Northern Ireland’s artisan cheese scene. “Fivemiletown made the first blue brie in Ireland and the first oaked brie in Europe. They were very innovative.”
Dale Farm saved the creamery in 2014 when it bought Fivemiletown’s brands from Glanbia Ingredients, after Glanbia acquired the cheeses along with the creamery’s milk supply from owners Fivemiletown & Brookeborough Co-operative.
This story appeared in the June issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.
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