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The FDA and small farmers

Something really needs to change at the FDA. The current situation is simply unfair to family farmers. Whether it’s the well-documented case of the Vermont Mad Sheep from a few years ago, the 50,000+ lbs of cheese that the FDA now wants destroyed at Morningland Dairy in Missouri, or the breaking news of the seizure of products at the Estrella Family Creamery these actions can result in destroying small businesses and, in effect, taking the land from people trying to do the right thing with their livliehoods. I recommend that everyone read Mad Sheep* because it really conveys the frustration and desperation of a family trying to do everything right, but being run out of business by forces beyond their control. Too often, other farmers and cheesemakers will not come to the aid of these folks because fighting the FDA is a scary thing and no one wants to bring that kind of attention to their operation. I was very new to cheese and the American Cheese Society at the time, but I remember hushed bar discussions about the sheep when it was going down and I remember a few sympathetic folks just walking away, too scared for their own businesses to want to discuss it in public. And let’s be honest as well. There has to be some real accountability and oversight of the FDA, but there are times it needs to move quickly. I think some raw milk advocates are scary. Some claims made for raw milk and raw milk cheese are not based in reality. The website where I originally saw the Morningland Dairy news was ridiculous in its breathless lack of real information, not discussing, for example, whether there were any positive tests for food-borne pathogens or if they were selling illegal cheese. Just acting as if the FDA are the new Nazis acting on some conspiracy basis to end raw milk cheese production. The Estrella and Morningland issues are ongoing. Perhaps there are valid public health concerns that we don’t know about that merit this kind of reaction. But every time I have ever talked to a farmer or (raw milk) cheesemaker who went through a recall, the lack of clear communication from regulatory agencies, the arrogance of higher-ups, and the changing playing field of what they are expected to provide to the government is what drives them crazy. Even the ones who can hire fancy lawyers get frustrated, the folks struggling to feed their families and make a living have it even worse. As always in this world… Seattle Food Local has a good post about the Estrella Family Creamery situation and what you can do to help. The Estrellas and I (and many of my readers) might have differences of opinion about many political issues, but the issue of justice for farmers is an important one for everyone to fight. *This was published by my publisher Chelsea Green, but I read this book a long time before I even finished mine, let alone sold it to CG. Read the original article on gordonzola’s blog. Gordon Edgar is the author of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge.

Great Cheeses from ACS 2012: Part 1

I am only mentioning cheeses that are new to me here because – as anyone there can attest – there were too many awesome cheeses for one person to blog about. My versions of these from past years are still pretty much valid, so check those out as well if you want. Here is a […] Read More..

American Cheese Society 2012: Judging

Whenever I get a chance to be a cheese judge at the American Cheese Society Conference, I grab it. I really do love it. I am honored to be asked – and that is part of it – but I love it mostly because it is pure cheese: just me, my mouth, and 1771 anonymous […] Read More..

Gordonzola’s Humble Suggestions for Getting the Most out of the Cheese Conference

I’ve lost track of how many ACS conferences I have attended. I pretty sure I have attended every one not on the East Coast since 1999. Almost universally, they have been awesome experiences that have taught me innumerable things about cheese and introduced me to people I otherwise might never have met. Back when I […] Read More..

New facebook page

I started a new facebook page because during vacation it dawned on me that I really wish I hadn’t given the “Cheesemonger” facebook page the name of my book. For one reason, it’ll be confusing when my next book comes out. For another, it’s embarrassing commenting on other people’s facebooks as “Cheesemonger: A Life on […] Read More..

When Cheese Goes Bad

There are times of the year I associate with bad cheese. Usually it is after a holiday, when a distributor has bought too much of something perishable that didn’t sell. Buyers are alerted to these deals with flyers titled things like “Hot Sheet”, “Killer Deals”, and “Margin Builders.” This is definitely risky buying for the […] Read More..