Posted: 19/02/2020

Climate change could force French makers to change protected recipes

Laws protecting famous French cheeses may have to be adapted because climate change is making it increasingly difficult for cheesemakers to comply with current rules.

Drought affected around half of France’s PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses last year, according to the country’s National Appellation Committee, including famous names such as Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert, Saint-Nectaire and Epoisses. 

Farms struggled to grow enough grass to feed livestock, which meant cheesemakers were unable to meet legal requirements specifying the length of time animals are at pasture and what they can be fed. Several producer groups were forced to ask Inao, the body that oversees French appellations, to temporarily modify designations so that they could sourced feed from outside their regions.

“Climactic conditions are increasingly variable from one year to the next,” said Inao in statement.

“Making such allowances clearly cannot become the norm as it damages the appellation system, namely the durable commitment to a product and a given geographic area combined with rigorous methods.”

Matthew O’Callaghan, chair of the UK Protected Food Names Association, said he could see a time when some French PDOs would have to be permanently changed.

“If it’s going to be regular practice that cheesemakers can’t comply, some may be forced to rewrite their PDOs,” he said. “If you’re paying a premium for a product, but find that it is not being made to specification, then you would be disappointed.” 

He added that British protected cheeses were unlikely to be affected because most designations had been written so as not to be as prescriptive around feed and grazing. 

This story appeared in the January/February issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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