Cows Can't Eat Parched Grass, So We Don't Get Special Cheese

Production of unique Salers cheese halted due to drought in France's Auvergne region
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2022 8:51 AM CDT
Latest Victim of France's Drought: a Unique Cheese
Stock photo of a Salers cow.   (Getty Images/Sablin)

(Newser) – If the grass in your yard goes a little dry over the summer, it's no big deal. In France's central Auvergne region, however, those parched parcels, a result of the nation's current drought, are wreaking havoc on the making of a centuries-old cheese. The Guardian reports on the plight of Salers cheese, an unpasteurized offering that has the country's appellation d'origine protegee (AOP) stamp of authenticity, meaning it's made in a certain area under strict guidelines. Under AOP rules, 75% of the feed for Salers cows must come from grass in local pastures—a recent impossibility due to the condition of the dried-out grass in Auvergne.

And so there's now a complete manufacturing shutdown in place, the first time that's ever happened. "There is nothing left to eat," one breeder, who says his cows haven't grazed since the end of June, tells radio station France Bleu. "In places it looks like ashes." That means a significant amount of money lost not only from the cheese itself, but from the milk from Salers cows that won't be needed to make the cheese, per Food & Wine. Laurent Lours, who heads up the AOP, tells France Bleu that milk from Salers cows is usually valued at $900 per every 265 gallons, but "as soon as we can no longer produce, we lose 200 to 300 [dollars]" for that same amount.

Lours estimates that production of Salers cheese will drop about 15% for the year overall. And what would happen if they let the cows eat the yellowed grass and tried to make cheese out of the resulting milk? "With more hay, the dough would be whiter, we would have [less] aroma," he says. "Our product still has a certain notoriety among consumers—we don't want to break it." Cheesemakers hope the shutdown is indeed temporary, and that rain will return next month and water the fields so the cows can start grazing again. (Read more France stories.)

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