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The French-cheese team
Farm cheese is made from milk produced on one farm, and transformed on that same farm. Technical and quality parameters may then intervene : raw, pasteurised or sterilised milk (but as you well know, only raw milk has our full approval !), or the milk’s best transformation time, morning or evening or even morning and evening, etc ? In all cases production levels are always limited, with significant factors linked to the seasons, consequences of type of fodder, work in the fields, etc. The stockbreeders/cheesemakers have to be everywhere : with the flock, in the fields, in the production workshop, at the products’ sales outlets, etc. They have to ensure the manufacture, be ready to readjust all the necessary parameters in accordance with a daily individual follow-up of conditions.
What is craft cheese ?
The artisan works with milk which is produced elsewhere. It is called craft because of the makers’ membership of the Chambre des Métiers (Chamber of Crafts and Occupations). In most cases they work in small structures (1 to 10 employees), the milk coming from nearby farms. Generally, the work is done within human parameters, associated with a certain level of technical competence, of course. The notion of quality is always appreciated in a human way, and each production is adapted to the artisan’s way of working. Product quality, by contrast, will be regulated in the case of a farm cheese, but at the expense of slightly modifying traditions.
What is dairy milk cheese ?
The dairy uses a larger supply dimension : the milk catchment area is broadened and sometimes appeals are made for an emergency supply potentially from a distance further away, and from sources over which there is no control. Manufacture is more automated and standardisation is underpinned by concerns for greater yields, allying security and productivity. Consequently cheese taste and diversity are reduced in comparison with craft manufacture.
What is industrial cheese ?
The owners are on the look out for automated manufacturing processes. That is why they are interested in a standard raw material, with an indispensable recourse to pasteurization, thermal or micro-filtration processes. Milk supplies come from everywhere, optimum yield ratios being a determining factor and taking precedence over everything else, with security concerns adapted above all to norms, not to health issues. It’s a race for productivity and product standardisation. To put it in a nutshell : this is everything that we dislike and are against, even if it does describe the manufacturing methods of the majority of French cheeses !
Are farm-produced cheeses organic ?
To answer this question, it’s important to define what is meant by organic.The definition :Based on the criteria for the French label AB Bio (literally the Organic Agriculture Label), not all farm products are considered to be organic. Obviously, only those with the label would qualify. However, farm-produced also means raw milk and traditional know-how. This involves, among many things, the quality of the animals’ food, the conditions on the farm, the handling of the milk and of the cheeses. It is obvious that the cheese resulting from free-roaming cows in the pasture, feeding exclusively on hay, is the most wholesome, but this process does not always meet the organic criteria. These criteria sometimes even hinder certain production methods or simply require very extensive improvements for the producers.
What is raw milk ?
Raw milk is milk that has not been heated before use. It must be used within 12 hours after milking, a time period that can be extended to 24 hours if the milk is immediately refrigerated at 4°C. Raw milk contains natural bacteria which gives cheese its taste and refined aroma. Most farm-produced cheeses are made from raw milk, which is also a requirement for obtaining the AOC (Label of Certified Origin).
What is micro-filtered milk ?
It’s a new preservation technique consisting of purifying the milk. First the cream is separated from the milk, then pasteurized. For its part, the milk is filtered through extremely fine membranes separating the bacteria. The cream and milk are then mixed again in chosen proportions. Not yet widely available on the French market, this milk does not yet hold an official designation. It can be kept in cold conditions longer than pasteurized milk, and even if its taste has been partly preserved because it has not been heated, its physico-chemical structure has been altered.
What is thermally treated milk ?
Before use, this milk has been heated to a temperature ranging from 57 to 68°C. It is thus a gentler, less radical process than pasteurization (see theme 8).
What is pasteurized milk ?
Contrary to raw milk, pasteurized milk is heated to a given temperature (around 72°C for 15 seconds) for a given time, and then quickly chilled. This process destroys almost all of the bacteria in the milk, especially any disease agents. Pasteurization also prolongs the shelf life of milk.
What is sterilised milk ?
This milk is sold in rigid or opaque bottles or containers (often Tetrabrick) and does not need to be kept in cold conditions. Sterilisation consists of subjecting the milk to a temperature of 115°C for 15 to 20 minutes, or at 150°C for 2 seconds for UHT milk (Ultra High Temperature, the most consumed in France). In this way all microbial germs, including the spores are destroyed. Its preservation is considerably lengthened : 150 days ( !) and 90 days for UHT milk … In line with the logic of industrial food production, with this treatment milk can be stocked for a long time : the time to be easily transported over long distances, offered for sale without the complication of constant resupplying, and stacked in our cupboards in whole packs. Easy to use milk has been turned into inert matter.
Of course it is ! If not, how would you still be able to find it ? But this isn’t the case everywhere : in France, cheese is very popular and is commonly eaten, an essential element of the culture. The same is true for Italy, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. However, Canada, Australia and Argentina, just to name a few, prohibit this type of production… To the great disappointment of many consumers and activist organisations.
What is A.O.C. (Label of Certified Origin) ?
The label A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) identifies a product that derives its authenticity and characteristics from its geographical origin. This label guarantees a close link between a product and the soil, in other words, a well-defined geographic zone with geological, agricultural and climatic characteristics… Specific techniques have been developed to make the best of these geographical constraints and to protect the time-trusted reputation of the products. This label and the requirements associated with it are now recognized and protected on a European and international scale. Aiming to minimize excesses of production, these methods promote environmental respect, sustainable development and the development of resources in the entire area. The National Institute of Origin Certification is in France, the public administration in charge of A.O.C. recognition and its protection on a domestic and international scale.
Source : www.agriculture.gouv.fr
See also www.inao.gouv.fr
The age old question, always with a different answer… In general, we advise against eating the rind because it can change the cheese’s flavor and also because it is more prone to risk.
This is the case of certain goat cheeses whose rinds can sometime develop unpleasant flavors. Camembert can also acquire an aggressive taste because of the presence of alkalis in the crust. At the same time, the interior of these cheeses, when eaten by itself, can be delicious and refreshing.
However, for lovers of more pronounced cheeses, it is advised to eat the rind after having enjoying the interior by itself.
Why is a tasting order recommended ?
The simple principle of a tasting involves sampling one or more products. The taste buds are thus quite stimulated and must be cared for in order to safeguard all of their tasting abilities. This is why we suggest an order that corresponds to the pyramid of flavors : from very mild to the most intense. For example,a Roquefort would undoubtedly cover the taste of a young goat cheese…See also How to taste your cheeses
Is cheese healthy ?
Cheeses came into existence 10,000 years ago as a means of conserving milk, a so precious but perishable product. They are veritable « concentrations of milk », since they are obtained by coagulation, which confers nutritional qualities.
With milk, cheese constitutes the main source of food calcium. 99% of the calcium contained in the body goes on building and maintaining the skeleton, , the remainder serving a number of mechanisms including acardiac activity, muscular contraction, blood coagulation, the functioning of certain enzymes … which would otherwise not exist. And when this 1% is not available, the organism will go and look for it in a bone, thus fragilising it. From where the interest comes in providing it in our food. Bone cells degenerate and are renewed continuously ; it must be realised that we ‘remanufacture’ the whole of our skeleton 3 to 4 fimes during our lifetime ! Whatever our age, we need an intake of calcium every day ; everyone is concerned, and in particular children and adolescents. Seniors too must also not be forgotten. The former are constructing their skeletons, while the latter must face the risk of osteoporosis (brittle-bone disease).
Calcium from dairy produce has a big advantage over other sources (mineral water, fruit and vegetables, etc.), because it is better processed by the body. In addition, it is recognised as the reference calcium , since it contains proteins, lactose, minerals and vitamins. So as to be absorbed efficiently, calcium has to be associated with other nutrients, which are phosphorus, proteins, with vitamin D and with lactose (sugar from milk). These elements are all present in milk. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Is unpasteurized (raw) milk hazardous to my health ?
This is the most publicized question about raw milk… Since this issue has been raised more than once over the past few years, a little clarification would help. Yes, cheese made from raw milk, like many other foods, is a potential breeding ground for bacteria, listeria monocytogènes in particular.
But let’s not forget that :
The cheese production process in itself exists as a result of bacterial growth caused by fermentation, the same principle that is used in the production of yogurt, beer, wine, bread, honey, cider, and some medicines, sauces and cosmetics, as well as many other products.
Listeria is not just limited to cheeses made from raw milk but also affects red meat, eggs, seafood and even cheeses made from pasteurized milk ! Zero-risk in food safety doesn’t exist. There have been 20 deaths in the US due to the consumption of hotdogs contaminated with Listeriose, 3 deaths in France linked to rillettes (shredded meat spread), and 15 deaths in the US because of meat consumption. But no one has mentioned a ban on raw meat… At the same time, even though raw milk has been sold in California for decades, there have been no related deaths. Dunn Gifford, founder of Oldways in 1997, remarks that traditional cheeses made from raw milk have not, in the United States, caused any deaths for at least 10 years, while hamburgers kill about 100 people each year. Also interesting is the 1988 study by the FDA which revealed 9 cases of sickness and led to the ban of raw milk… all because of contaminated cheese made from pasteurised milk ! Pasteurization does not mean absolute protection : a pasteurized product can still be contaminated.
Health regulations for farm cheese producers have grown drastic, with the requirement for all such producers to be certified by the French Health Department in order to sell their products.
Studies show that the risk comes not from the product itself, but from the production and storage methods : hygiene practices play a key role here. More dangerous are the possibilities of an unclean refrigerator or the lack of handwashing before cooking.
Numerous reports from research laboratories, well-renowned physicians and health organizations reveal that, on the contrary, cheeses made from raw milk are potentially healthier and more beneficial than those made from pasteurized milk. This can be explained by several phenomena. First, there is an effect of self regulation of bacteria : they neutralise one another according to natural laws, since ‘raw milk also contains enzymes and lactic bacteria which prevent the development of pathogenic microbes’. The salmonella bacterium which is also noxious, disappears in the refining process Except that pasteurisation and the absence of the notion of refining (for quicker sales) involves destroying these elements, thus creating environments where contamination is always possible : the noxious bacterium can then develop that much quicker and much more virulently. On the other hand, raw milk cheeses induce an effect which can be compared to that of a vaccine, but at a minimum and non-dangerous level thus generating a preventive reaction in the metabolism. In other words the body, and notably the digestive system, can develop its capacities, intestinal flora for example. What results is that the body becomes sounder, more resistant, more armed against aggressions. As you have seen, this is a vast debate on the sterilisation of our food, and at the same time our way of life …
Finally, to understand the argument generated by the subject of raw milk cheeses, it must be placed in its economic context. For a start, pasteurisation brings a very simple advantage : it prolongs the life of milk, as much on supermarket shelves as in consumers’ refrigerators. This is an enormous boon : extending a 2-day life to one of weeks for pasteurised milk, and even several months for sterilised milk ! Unfortunately, this is done at the expense of its taste and biological qualities. Here we are well in the realm of industrial production, of mass transformation and clockwork distribution, suffering no exception. Needless to specify that the big producers already pasteurise their products, and could not but benefit from a ban on other types of milk. Hundreds of producers have already gone to the wall because they cannot cope with the administrative rules, sometimes exaggerated, on sanitation conditions ; these are often issued under pressure from different industries, supporters of the easy way out, and thus of pasteurisation purely and simply. Hundreds of farm cheeses, authentic as we love them, have disappeared with them. Those who have survived do everything they can to improve the quality of their methods, their workplaces, their product, and of course this cannot but be a good thing ! As long as the quality of the cheese itself is respected, without the intent at complete alteration, giving the illusion of a pseudo-cheese or attempting to sell a lure with monopoly status.
It is said that food is good when it is prepared with love : could it be that a machine will never be able to transmit human warmth ?
I’m pregnant : is it safe for me to eat cheese ? Which ones ?
Yes you can ! But you have to be careful of which cheeses you eat and the way you eat them !In principle, pasteurized cheeses and cooked-curd cheeses (Comté, Gruyère, Beaufort…) pose the least risk, but still aren’t guaranteed to be 100 percent safe. A risk of contamination after pasteurization is always possible. Cheeses with a higher water content, from the soft-ripened family, pose a greater risk because bacteria grow more quickly in humid environments. Thus, a washed-crust cheese is more at risk than a flowered-crust cheese, such as a Camembert. How should they be eaten ? Since the risk of contamination is greater from handling than from the cheese’s interior itself, it is very important to avoid contaminating the cheese during slicing. Thus, it is strongly recommended to use a different knife to cut each cheese and also to remove the outer crust before eating. In any case, don’t hesitate to ask for advice from your cheese vendor.
How much cheese can one eat ?
If there’s no weight or health problem, we can eat one or two portions per meal (30 – 40g per portion). In the context of a slimming or anti-cholesterol diet, only one portion per day . will be authorised. We live within a cheese tradition, and we must hang on to this heritage ; it is very important, above all in relation to children, to enhance, explain and encourage curiosity in the heritage. It is true that for cheese fans, it is difficult to conform to the idea of only one piece of cheese … This is something that is learned : by varying the type of cheese, for example, so as to discover other tastes. Ideally you should have 3 or 4 cheeses at home : and by eating a small piece of each, there is a sense of discovery and the tastebuds are aroused. And in addition in a meal we should find a place for each item of food : know how to enjoy the cheese, but leaving a place for the fruit. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Does cheese make you fat ?
Once again, no, if you respect reasonable quantities : one portion per meal, up to three to give yourself pleasure. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
I have high cholesterol, can I eat cheese ?
Yes, of course ! You’re allowed a little butter and a little cheese, but it’s above all the rest of your diet which is monitored. By the diversity its elements, cheese can reconcile pleasure and dietetics. The aim should always be to maintain all food groups, even if you are on a diet. Food is only a third responsible for hypercholesterolemy ; this condition is linked to genetics, the environment, physical activity and dietary habits. Even then, while cheese is certainly a source of cholesterol, it is not very significantly so, because much lower than cooked pork meats, giblets and offal. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that cholesterol plays a role in the organism, by vehicling certain hormones in the manufacture of cell walls. We are born with it, and it is necessary.
There have always been anti-milk, anti-cheese and anti-dairy produce attitudes. Strangely enough, this also corresponds fairly well to sales of enriched margarines which claim to lower cholesterol levels. In point of fact, the experts have of course addressed themselves to this issue, and studies are under way to prove that certain fats, on the contrary, are believed to play a role in cholesterol regulation mechanisms ; but beware, howeve,r as the notion of quantity remains present. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
And in the case of a salt-free diet ?
Cheese is only the 4th vector of sodium salt), behind cooking salt, salt contained in transformed (ready-to-eat) products and in foodstuffs themselves. It is true that in France we are big consumers of salt : the first thing to do is not to systematically place a salt cellar on the table. If you wish to add salt to your food you should have to get up to do so. This simple gesture will also help us to cut down on our salt intake. For example, in most school cantines, salt quantities are pre-calculated during the preparation phase ; theoretically, the children should have no need to add any more. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Can I eat cheese if I’m allergic to milk ?
Allergy is an immune problem : the sufferer is unable to consume proteins from a dairy- product source, thus ano dairy products from whatever animal. This allergy is generally identified at birth and regresses by itself to around 3 years, very much rarely until 15 years and extremely rarely into adulthood. Calcium needs are then provided from other food sources : fruit, vegetables and water together with a medicinal complement.
Intolerance to milk is very different from being allergic ; it is linked to the digestive function. Sufferers cannot digest lactose (sugar from milk) or do so with difficulty. Nevertheless in general, they can tolerate the equivalent of a mug of milk per day, which is acceptable. Conversely, this intolerance does not in any way call into question other dairy products, especially cheese since it no longer contains any lactose ; which has been transformed into lactic acid. Inversely, another person who does not want to eat cheese can perfectly well cover his/her needs by drinking milk.
Dairy products should only be totally excluded in allergy cases, confirmed by a recog-nised allergist : the stakes and health risks are too high. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Can milk be replaced by soya milk ?
Absolutely not. First of all, the name soya milk is false ; milk can only have one source, which is animal. It is more appropriate to talk about soya water. Regulations are at present being prepared to rename it correctly. On the other hand, this soya water cannot be a substitute for milk since it does not contain the same nutrients and cannot cover as many as the organism’s needs as milk can. By the way, the AFSSA has advised against the use of soya by toddlers under the age of three years. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Can meat be replaced by cheese ?
It is not enough for adolescents, because they are still in the growing phase. But in general, meat can be substituted by cheese, in certain conditions. Especially since it has been established that the older people get, the more they turn away from meat ; that is when milk can become a source of animal proteins. It is a good complement, and there is less mastication. But generally speaking, variety in eating is nonetheless recommended. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
The softer the cheese, the fatter it is ?
Wrong ! The softer it is, the more water it contains ; it is less dense, less concentrated thus it is has less fat. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Which cheeses are the richest in calcium ?
Cheeses will be more or less rich in calcium according to their manufacturing processes and their water content. The more dense or hard the cheese, the richer in calcium, because the less water it contains. Customarily, we speak of Emmental, Comté, etc. as being milk- concentrated.
In addition, soft-centred or in particular veined cheeses, equally have a high vitamin A content (good for the skin, vision, growth), vitamin D (calcium absorption, anti-rickets), vitamin B (good use of proteins, lipids, glucides, nerve impulse transmission). (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
Does mineral water contain as much calcium as milk ?
No, even the most enriched in calcium contains less than 50% than milk. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
I’m a vegetarian ; if I eat cheese do I have a balanced food diet ?
Yes. Of course vegetarians do not eat either meat, eggs or fish ; and there you’re eliminating mainly animal proteins. These proteins are to be found in dairy products. They should be completed by vegetable proteins : pulses, i.e.lentils, chick peas, split peas, etc. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
What is meant by a vegan diet ?
In the case of this diet, all proteins from animal sources are prohibited ; it is totally unbalanced... It can lead to serious deficiencies in the organism since not only animal proteins are eliminated, but also the main sources of calcium. This can have grave consequences, especially in children and adolescents. It is to be ruled out. (A. Chicoulaa, CIDIL dietitian)
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