Ramifications of Horsegate in the Cheese Industry

Me and Stu with our Superior Goat: Yorkshire Gouda

Me and Stu with our Superior Goat: Yorkshire Gouda

I look forward to reading Paul George’s column in the Speciality Food Magazine except where (in the past) he says that cheese makers need to control their costs and lower their prices.  I am sure that George is aware of rising milk prices and that most of us continue to cut costs to the bone without compromising quality.  Having said this, the cost of milk is the largest constituent of our cost base and we cannot influence or change this, for we are subject to market forces; it makes life difficult as I for one do not like passing on price increases, any more that the end consumer likes paying slightly higher prices.

This week’s column considers the ramifications for the cheese industry based on recent events in Horsegate.

George mulls over whether the dairy industry will have greater controls, stricter guidelines and more technical audits imposed on it.  And who will pay for this?  George suggests that it will either be the manufacturer or the consumer, so the cost of food will rise.

I agree with George that if more controls are placed on us, it will mostly affect the huge manufacturers with a more complex supply chain comprising many farmers selling milk to potentially multiple manufacturers.  For us, we have sole suppliers for cow, sheep and goat milk.

Unpressed goat gouda straight from the vat

Unpressed goat gouda straight from the vat

We do not receive mixed batches from multiple suppliers.  Our audit trail is very simple and transparent and is audited, particularly traceability, four times on an annual basis: by the EHO, Trading Standards, our external auditor and BRC and I really would not welcome any more.

Last week, I received a call from a farm shop who stocks our cheese, not directly buying from us, rather through a wholesaler, asking me if our goat cheese was just made from goat milk or was it a mix of goat and cow milk.  The person calling said that it was because they had a customer who was lactose intolerant and wanted to know that the goat cheese she bought was made only from goat milk or was it mixed goat and cow milk?

Cutting the vat: 1,900 litres of goat milk

Cutting the vat: 1,900 litres of goat milk

I was horrified and actually quite offended that anyone should think this.  I assured the caller that all of the goat cheese that we make is made purely from goat milk from Lancashire.  I explained how we record the milk intake with its tanker read out against the make sheet and the batch book and lab test, even saying that if they would like to come and see us making cheese and follow our audit trail, they were quite welcome to.  Probably a bit over the top, but I meant it!

I do not know anyone who mixes milk, but then again, with the price of goat milk twice that of cow’s milk, I wonder if it does happen, without being declared on the label.

Rest assured, we do not!

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