Whether your first cheese love is a 40 kg wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano or a 60 gram morsel of Crottin de Chavignol (adorable little goat cheese), cheese and all dairy products are highly regulated commodities in Canada. Both the production and the importation of cheese are regulated by a supply management system called quotas.
Quotas are set weights of the amount of cheese that can be produced or imported within any given year. They are regulated by government. A dairy farm in Canada is only allowed to produce as much milk as they have quota for and the same is true of cheese. An importer can only import as much cheese as they have quota for.
The original idea behind quota was to protect Canadian farmers from an onslaught of milk from other countries and create consistent prices for milk in Canada by insuring that the supply is equal to the demand.
In 2012, Canada produced approximately 247,785 kg of specialty cheese. These are the more interesting, platter worthy wedges of deliciousness. The entire Canadian cheese industry produced 304 thousand metric tons, give or take a kilo or two, about a 4% increase from the year before.
It can be a bit tricky to receive quota for producing cheese, Farmstead producers can pay up to $25,000 per cow just for quota before they can even start to think about milking the cows. That does not include the price of the cow, the farm or any of the equipment or other expenses.
A cheesemaker must then submit to provincial regulation in order to be able to make and sell cheese within their home province. Foodstuffs of all kinds are subjected to health inspection (and thank goodness for that!), and additional cost.
A cheesemaker must also apply for a federal license if they wish to sell products outside their own province - adding yet another layer of expense that is ultimately handed down to the consumer. And if the cheese does travel away from its point of origin, shipping is factored into the end price as well. There are no free rides even if you are the cheese.
Currently there are over 665 varieties of cheese made in Canada with 51.5% of the total production from Quebec, Ontario lags behind that with 26.25% and the remaining 22.25% was from the rest of Canada. That’s a lot of cheese coming from Quebec.
Alberta is on a cheese craze, and we do have a growing artisan cheese community here in Alberta with more interesting cheeses popping up all the time. And yes, we pay more for an artisan style cheese than the commodity style cheeses found at the grocery store, but there is a difference in flavour. I would prefer to pay a little more and really enjoy the cheese. See the list below for a sampling of the yumminess.
I don’t know about you, but for me, life really would not be complete without Gruyere 1655, Camembert de Normandy, Ossau Iraty, Grana Padano and various and sundry other delights.
The quota for imported cheese is divided up among 98 different wholesale companies throughout Canada. A company can only bring in as many kilograms of cheese as the quota allows. The weight of cheese that is imported has not changed since the mid 70’s when quota was first assigned, and includes processed cheese products. Now that would be fine, but there are a lot more people in Canada now than there were in the 70’s.
In kilograms this amounts to about 20 million kg per year. Now that seems like a lot of cheese but when you consider the population of Canada, that’s only 600 grams per person per year. The average Canadian gobbled up 12.09 kg of cheese last year. Now 600 grams isn’t enough to keep me going for a couple of weeks, so I am glad I am getting someone else’s portion of the good stuff. Ha!
European cheese accounts for 66% of imports leaving only 34% for the rest of the world, as per government regulation. Here in Calgary, on occasion, you will see cheese from the USA, Australia and beyond, but it is limited to a few producers and does not even begin to embrace the broad range of amazing products available in the wonderful world of cheeses.
Sylvan Star – Sylvan Lake
What they make: Gouda, Edam, Manchego and Gruyere
Old West Ranch – Waterton
Mozzarella di Bufala
The Cheesiry – Kitscoty
Fresco Naturale, Feta and Pecorino(various ages)
Latin Foods – Calgary
Queso Fresco,Queso Paisa and Queso Duro
White Gold – Calgary
Burrini, Caciocavallo, Caciotta, Provolone di Bojano, Scamorza, Burrata, Fior di Latte, Nodini, Ricotta, Trecce and Tuma
Smoky Valley Goat Cheese – North of Smoky Lake
Chevre, Valencay, St. Maure, Annette, Farmer’s and Tomme
Fairwinds Farm – Nobleford
Feta, Gouda and Chevre – Natural, Peppercorn, red Pepper, onion and Garlic & Garden Chive
Noble Meadows Farm – Nobleford
Chevre, Feta, Cheddar and Gouda
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