Production of French salers cheese halted due to drought

·2 min read
Photograph: Herve Lenain/Alamy

Traditional cheese has become the latest casualty of France’s summer drought, as production of the salers variety in the central Auvergne region was halted due to a lack of grass for cows.

Salers is an unpasteurised cow’s cheese that has been made for centuries in central France. It carries France’s appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) stamp of approval, meaning it is unique to the small area where it is produced.

But one of the rules of its production is that the local cows must be fed on at least 75% grass from pasture if their milk is to be used.

This summer’s scorching temperatures have led most of the 76 farmers whose milk goes to the production of salers to despair that their once green pastures are parched and yellow from drought.

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“There’s nothing left to eat,” one farmer, Laurent Roux, told the local radio station France Bleu. “The terrain is so dry that in places, it looks like ash. It’s dust.”

A decision was made to temporarily halt production of the cheese in the hope that rain would come in September and restore the pasture.

Laurent Lours, the head of the local group of salers cheesemakers, said: “Salers is a seasonal cheese, made in the grass season. That’s one of the pillars of its identity.” He said without grass the cheese would look and taste completely different, which risked damaging its image.

It is the first time that production of salers cheese has been completely shut down.

France is suffering its worst drought on record with some villages in the south left without safe drinking water and dependent on deliveries by truck, and farmers warning of a looming milk shortage in the winter.

The corn harvest is expected to be 18.5% lower this year and farmers said other cereal and fruit and vegetable crops were suffering.