Britain’s specialist cheesemakers and retailers are urging the public to support small cheesemakers at the first British Cheese Weekender, from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th May 2020, as the coronavirus crisis threatens the previously thriving industry.
Led by the Specialist Cheesemakers Association (SCA), the Academy of Cheese and the Guild of Fine Food, and supported by cheese writer Patrick McGuigan, the initiative aims to “raise awareness of the crisis and help shoppers connect with local cheesemakers and indie retailers by providing online directories of the companies that can deliver or are safely open for business.”
The organisers say that artisan cheesemakers have lost “up to 90% of their business overnight when the hospitality sector was closed down” and are being forced to give away cheese for free and pour “thousands of litres of milk down the drain”. They point out that small producers have been left with maturing rooms full of cheeses that have limited shelf lives and at the same time, cows, sheep and goats are out to pasture and continue to produce milk every day.
“The future of Britain’s farmhouse and specialist cheesemakers is in the balance – we could see many of the country’s best cheeses lost forever as family farms and small cheesemaking businesses are pushed to the wall,” warned cheesemaker Catherine Mead, chair of the SCA, which represents over 200 small cheesemakers and is one of three organisations involved in the initiative. “The national crisis has put untold pressure on our members. Restaurants, cafes and pubs, plus farmers markets and supermarket deli counters, closed overnight leaving cheese stores over filled, an abundance of spring milk with nowhere to go and only a few orders forthcoming.”
She added: “The good news is that it’s never been easier to buy good cheese, either online or direct. The specialist cheese industry has mobilised almost overnight, often teaming up with other small food producers, to get good food to people in their local areas.”
Commenting on the British Cheese Weekender, Tracey Colley, director of the Academy of Cheese, said: “We’re lining up a series of virtual masterclasses over the weekend, hosted by top cheese experts so that people can tune in and learn more about cheese as they taste along at home. We’ll be covering topics from how to be a cheese judge to drinks pairings and storage tips.”
Find out more by visiting academyofcheese.org/british-cheese-weekender/.