The Cheese Competition Game
If one needed any proof, the recent—and very well-deserved—success of American cheeses at the World Cheese Awards competition in Birmingham, UK, bears testament to the meteoric rise of artisanal cheesemaking in the United States over recent years.
The last two decades have seen a remarkable rise both in the number of people embarking on a career in cheesemaking as well as the number of cheeses produced. This fact is borne out in the crucibles of various cheese competitions with huge increases in the number of entries submitted each year. Not only that, but the quality and consistency of the cheeses is constantly improving too.
The trends mentioned above are commensurate with a seemingly unstoppable momentum surrounding cheese education and knowledge on the part of cheesemongers, retailers distributors and the consumer. It really is a case of a rising tide raises all boats. In the world of cheese competitions, contests vary. Some, such as the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) have clearly set parameters in that only cheeses or dairy products made from goat’s milk may be submitted.
For many American producers the annual American Cheese Society competition has traditionally attracted cheeses made by the smaller or medium scale producers, although interestingly in recent years Kraft has been entering and—to the consternation of some—winning prizes.
Wisconsin also sees two major cheese competitions run by the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association. A World Championship cheese contest alternates each year with a US-only competition.
Of course, there are many producers that choose not to enter competitions at all. Reasons for this obviously vary. For smaller cheesemakers, the costs of entering competitions can prove too high. For others, some of which are in the fortunate position of being able to sell everything they make, any added publicity associated with a win would create a situation where demand outstrips supply and therefore cause frustration for all parties.
For winners, a good result can be life-changing in terms of commercial traction and an increase in sales and profile. However, from a consumer or buyer standpoint, you shouldn't adversely judge cheeses that aren't emblazoned with winner stickers. As ever, when buying cheese, if possible taste before you buy and make your own judgement.
That said, for the competition followers amongst you, here is a small round-up of some of 2012’s many winners—all of which are available in the United States.
American Cheese Society
- Flagsheep, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
- Black Sheep, Prairie Fruits Farm
- Coupole, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery
- Dry Jack Special Select, Vella Cheese Co
- Truffle Tremor, Cypress Grove Chevre
For the full list of American Cheese Society Competition Results
British Cheese Awards
- Best Traditional British Cheese Quickes Traditional Unpasteurised Cheddar
- Best Territorial Cheese Mrs Kirkham’s Traditional Lancashire
For the full list of British Cheese Awards 2012 results
World Cheese Awards (UK)
Recipients of Super Gold Medals
- Bloomsdale, Baetje Farms
- Harbison, Jasper Hill Farm
- Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, Fiscalini
- Rogue River Blue, Rogue Creamery
- Spenwood, Village Maid Cheese
For the full list of The Guild of Fine Food World Cheese Championships Results
World Champion Cheese Contest Cheese Results