Snapshot of US artisan cheesemaking concerns


Wednesday, 21 April, 2021


Snapshot of US artisan cheesemaking concerns

Understanding spoilage concerns and the financial consequences of defects in the artisan cheesemaking industry may help to improve quality, profitability and sustainability. In an article appearing in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists from Tufts University surveyed artisan cheese producers in the United States and provided a snapshot of their concerns.

The artisanal cheesemaking community indicated that many (71%) are concerned about undesirable surface moulds and incorrect or unexpected colours or pigments on rinds (54%). Of the 61 cheesemakers surveyed, 18% were very concerned about quality and spoilage problems, 39% said that their quality standards are not met annually and 33% said their quality standards are not met monthly.

“The growing US cheesemaking industry will require additional resources moving forward that address not only safety but also quality and spoilage concerns,” said first author Megan Biango-Daniels, PhD, Biology Department, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA. “One interesting observation from our data is that cheesemakers, as a group, are unsure about how widespread quality issues are but strongly agree that additional resources to help address quality issues would benefit them personally.”

Examples of rind defects include (A) unwanted surface moulds such as blue mould on camembert cheese (photograph by BE Wolfe), (B) unwanted rind colours, such as purple rind defect (Kamelamela et al, 2018), (C) rind separation from paste in mould ripened cheese (Choi et al, 2016) and (D) unwanted divots or dimples in the rind (photograph by Biango-Daniels).

Although 62% of survey respondents reported that only between 0 and 5% of their product was lost or made less valuable due to quality issues annually, 7% of cheesemakers had losses of over 20% of their product. Nearly all respondents agreed that better quality of their products would lessen waste, boost profits and enhance production. In answer to open-ended questions, those surveyed said that they would like to have access to additional online resources addressing quality topics and to digital forums to collaborate with experts and peers when problems emerge.

Dr Biango-Daniels added, “Regardless of what these future resources will look like, it’s important that cheesemakers budget for professional development, organisational membership, and continuing education (training online or in-person) in their business plans so that they can afford to invest in the resources that enable production of safe, high-quality cheese.”

The study suggests that addressing the concerns of cheesemakers will remain challenging because of resource and tool development barriers, the relatively few scientists who specialise in these subjects and the limited funding sources available for this type of research.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Igor Dutina

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