Consumers and lovers of true Camembert — that delicious, mushroomy, soft French cheese — could soon be at a loss for the good stuff. Only four million out of 360 million wheels of Camembert made each year are produced under the strictly regulated guidelines of true Camembert, PDO Camembert de Normandie. But true Camembert may soon be a thing of the past.
The PDO Camembert de Normandie designation protects the cheese in the same way AOC Champagne protects Champagne. For the cheese, that means it has to be made with unfiltered raw milk that has a fat content of at least 38 percent, and the milk must only be made from cows from northern Normandy that eat local grass and hay. Once producers have the milk, they have to hand ladle it into four different layers, among other things. Cheeses stamped with a PDO designation are made under these guidelines.
If those rules aren’t followed, then it’s not real Camembert. It’s a mass produced (and inferior) imitation. Big business and government regulations against raw cheese could make that inferior version the only option, Bloomberg reports.
In the U.S., true Camembert is already impossible to find. Imported cheese must be either aged 60 days or be pasteurized to be sold in the U.S. Camembert is only aged 30 days and cannot be pasteurized. But even in France, the home of Camembert, it’s getting harder and harder to find.
Then there’s big business. Large corporate producers make a product that simply says “fabrique en Normandie,” which is made with any number of pasteurized milk from all over Normandy. Those cheeses lack the funky characteristics that make true Camembert (and all small farm produced raw milk cheeses) distinctive. In other words, it’s about the cheese, not the milk.
Naturally, those big business Camemberts are cheaper and more widely available (254 million of the 360 million wheels of Camembert) — meaning the good stuff could lose a place in the stomachs and hearts of cheese lovers as it becomes too expensive to produce. So start eating now. It may be time to find a cheap flight to France.