COVID-19’s Effect on French Cheese Consumption

Summer 2020 – Sacré bleu! Zut alors! Mon Dieu! Bon sang! Oh la vache!

It turns out it is not just the U.S. dairy industry that is struggling but also, the French industry. In a recent Outlook Traveller titled, “The French Are Shying Away From Cheese”, we get news that the coronavirus pandemic has affected consumption of cheese in France:

The unthinkable has happened. The French are avoiding cheese.

Citizens of France are being encouraged to eat more cheese, as the French dairy industry has seen a 6 percent decrease in sales of fromage amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a press release by France Terre de Lait (the French dairy industry), this situation has arisen, as restaurants and markets have shut down, and people are preferring to spend money on basic ingredients than on cheese. Also, reports state that the French are being cautious about hygiene standards and buying less over-the-counter cheese.

As a result, France’s cheese producers find themselves in a dire situation with a risk of almost thousands of tons of cheese being thrown away  “We’re in a situation where consumers have lost the taste for eating cheese during this crisis,” rued Michel Lacoste, president of the National Council for Milk Product Appellations (CNAOL). Tons of unsold cheese has been given away by food charities, or been melted down, or just destroyed. Around 80 percent of the cheese produced cannot be stored for more than eight weeks.

In an attempt to tackle this unprecedented situation, a nationwide campaign supported by celebrities, involving Michelin-starred chefs Régis Marcon and Marc Veyrat and the French Rugby Federation, has been launched in order to support cheese, probably France’s numero uno culinary heritage.

#Fromagissons – an amalgamation of fromage (cheese) and agissons (let’s act) – is being used on social media in order to create awareness. “The dairy industry is calling on consumers to eat cheese in solidarity with our producers of saint-nectaire, reblochon, cantal, camembert,” the release said.

“The situation is critical and requires a rapid increase in consumption,” president of the dairy collective SODIAAL (Société de diffusion Internationale agro-alimentaire) Damien Lacombe said, as reported by French magazine Agri Culture.

Of course, the U.S. dairy industry has its own problems. Restaurants that use much high-end cheese are closed or just doing take-out. Schools that use a lot of dairy products are closed. And the prospect of a recession doesn’t bode well for high-end imported cheeses.

Still, one doesn’t eat massive amounts of high-end specialty cheese. It is a kind of indulgence, maybe especially to be valued when one can’t travel much.

As the country opens up, support our U.S. cheesemakers, but if you have an opportunity, support cheesemakers from allies around the world. At times like this, we are, indeed, all in this together.          CC