This is a big update on everything that’s been happening in our world of cheese at The Ethical Dairy over the past few months. Bear with us, this could be a long post!
Unfortunately we are essentially sold out of cheese until October, and realistically there won’t be much available till late November. This is not a situation we wanted to be in. Since last December we have been holding stock back, trying to eek things out so that we didn’t let anyone down; including our trade stockists and our regular online customers. But we simply don’t have enough at the moment.
As you will know if you’ve been following our journey for a while, our existing cheese production facilities are tiny – which means we can only make and store small batches of cheese. We simply haven’t been able to scale up production in line with demand – yet. Which brings me to….
Cheese Production Facilities
As from next week we will be in our new facilities and able to make large batches (which are still very modest in size by industry standards – but seem huge to us!). This means we will be scaling up production of cheese by a factor of four almost immediately, which is so exciting. However, these cheeses will then need to mature, and that takes time.
We expect the first cheeses made in the new facility to be ready in November, so the good news is that stock should be plentiful for Christmas cheese ordering, and stock levels should improve further throughout 2020.
One of the very first things we’ll be doing once we’re in production is to make cheddar! Thank you to everyone who tried and shared your thoughts on our trial batch of cheddar last year. Cheddar will definitely be added to our core list of cheeses just as soon as we can get some properly matured.
Following customer feedback we are also looking at reducing the size of our Bluebell truckles – our individual truckles are just a wee bit too big for many people – and we’ll be doing some experimenting with new cheese ideas!
The Legal Action
The last time we updated you on the legal action we were taking, against Food Standards Scotland with other Scottish cheesemakers, was March. This was just before we had our annual audit with our local environmental health officer, and it was right in the middle of the legal back and forth regarding official guidance for unpasteurised cheese.
Well, the audit went absolutely fine. As we mentioned previously we have a very good relationship with our environmental health team and we are very careful about our processes and our approach to managing risk. What the audit highlighted was the differing interpretations of the guidance by cheesemakers versus environmental health officers – we were reading the same document but interpreting what it meant differently.
Long story short, the Scottish cheesemakers and Food Standards Scotland have now reached an agreement on that disputed guidance document. The guidance has been changed and clarified, and as a result we have dropped the legal action. This is really good news and it is the outcome we had hoped for. The decision to initiate legal action was an important one, but we are pleased the situation was resolved through negotiation rather than needing to progress to a full judicial review.
We are delighted to be hosting a couple of visits by members of the Speciality Cheesemakers Association. This organisation is an alliance of cheesemakers, retailers and wholesalers that encourages excellence in cheesemaking, and the main gathering and farm visit is taking place at Loch Arthur, who have pioneered artisan cheesemaking in Scotland for more than 30 years.
We are hosting a couple of short tours and we are looking forward to welcoming some of the UK’s top cheesemakers to our farm. We are very much the new kids on the block within the world of cheese, so we are looking forward to learning lots!
In anticipation of having some actual cheese available to sell later in the year, we are planning our attendance at some trade shows in the autumn. Thanks to support from the Dumfries & Galloway LEADER programme we have been able to secure a really good stand space at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in Olympia in London in early September, so current cheese shortage aside, we’ll have lots to do over the next couple of months to prepare for that to try to get our cheese, and our ice cream, more widely available across the UK.