Getting the message out
It’s always a challenge changing perceptions, as US cheese makers are discovering. US dairy is used worldwide, but often as a commodity base. As one speaker said at the International Cheese Technology Expo in snowy Milwaukee, they know we make cheese, but think European when it comes to speciality cheese. And interestingly, two out of four speakers at a speciality cheese panel cited European cheeses as their favourites when asked – Gruyere and Stilton. So, there is work to be done on that front.
Having sampled a lot of American cheese these past few weeks, I would say that the issue is not the quality of US cheeses, but rather getting the word out about them. The US Dairy Export Council has a website where international buyers can find US producers, so the global trade plan is beginning, no matter who is in the White House. This and the drive to expand sampling and to get them into consumer hands in the Middle East and North Africa region will make an area for cheese makers, no matter where they produce, to watch. If they have half the success of US craft brewers, there may be US hand crafted cheese internationally sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, I also got a different perspective on the European PDO programme. It was a bit upsetting to hear that the US is not enamoured of the EU-Mexico free trade agreement and sees the PDO system as oppressive. But a viewpoint is all about where you happen to be standing, and you can see why a small US producer would protest this. See the Feta PDO and Fine Fettle in the UK as a prime example of the process in action.
And the news is that everyone hates Canada and their closed market system. So there’s something that the US and EU will agree on. Poor Canada.