Knock on Wood: The FDA vs. Traditional Affinage

Never a dull moment in cheeseland! We’re still recovering from last week’s roller coaster ride; from the FDA’s pronouncement that wooden boards used to age cheese are unsanitary, to the overwhelming backlash from cheesemakers and lovers alike (#SaveOurCheese became the ubiquitous rallying tag on social media), and the final two-part denouement, with the FDA’s first and second retreat (aka “clarifications”)– we’ve been on the edge of our tuffets.

Here are some facts, as quoted by The American Cheese Society:

– Almost 75% of cheese producers in the three largest American producer states age at least some of their cheeses on wood.
– Over 65% of ACS cheesemakers surveyed use  wood for aging
-Cheesemakers in Wisconsin alone age 30 million pounds of cheese on wood annually.
-Over half of all cheeses imported to the US are aged on wood

Many of the cheeses you know and love are aged in special temperature and humidity-controlled rooms where the flavor and rind develop. Cave aging on wooden shelves is a practice that’s been around for many centuries, and without it we wouldn’t have many of the world’s most popular cheeses. Cheeses like Gruyere, clothbound cheddar and Bleu d’Auvergne, are aged on (clean, heat-sanitized)  wooden planks that contribute to maintaining proper humidity levels, flavor complexity, and they actually inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. When a cheese is contaminated, it’s usually a sign that there is something amiss with the cheesemaker’s overall sanitation practices, not the use of wood itself.

We are 100% for upholding the highest standards of sanitation when it comes to food safety and, like thousands of cheesemakers and affineurs the world over, we use wood in our cheese caves.

Want to take a virtual tour of our cheese caves?  Come along with us and Martha Stewart on her recent visit:

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Click here to browse our selection of cave aged cheeses.  

Keep up with the latest news on the issue:

Swiss Opinion on Use of Wooden Shelves in Cheese Ripening

NY Times: FDA Issues Clarification, but Cheese Makers Are Wary (6/12)

FDA’s Clarification on Using Wood Shelving in Artisanal Cheesemaking (6/11)

American Cheese Society Position Statement on the Safety of Aging Cheese on Wood (6/10)

Forbes: FDA Backs Down in Fight Over Cage Aged Cheese (6/10)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Rule May Alter Cheese Aging Process (6/10)

We the People Petition on the American Craft Cheese Industry

Janet Fletcher’s Planet Cheese (6/11)

Cheese Underground




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