2014 has been a tough year for goat’s milk cheese lovers in the UK. Since January, chèvre enthusiasts across the British Isles have been making do with far less of their favorite fromage, thanks to a national shortage of goat’s milk. Last winter was chillier than usual, and the UK is not enjoying the effects that the poor weather had on goats’ milk supplies. However, despite the noticeable absence of goat’s milk cheese from many British restaurants, some curious consumers have wondered about the authenticity of goat cheeses that they can still purchase in markets, which has seemingly been unaffected by the milk shortage. After studying 76 cheeses, consumer watchdog group Which? is releasing the sheep herding dogs on nine brands of contaminated goat’s milk cheese.
The results of the cheese studies – led by food safety expert Dr. Chris Elliott of Queen’s University, Belfast – concluded that nine companies have been cutting their goat’s milk cheeses with sheep’s milk. Contamination ranges from a barely traceable 5% to a staggering 80%. When asked about the shocking findings, Elliott explained in an interview with the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, “When I looked into why sheep products had been used, the answer seemed to be that there is plenty of this around and the taste to most of us will be very similar and thus ‘undetectable’ by the consumer.”
To make matters worse, four of the nine offending chèvres were not even made with sheep’s milk that originated from farms in the UK, thus violating what Elliott called the “long term relationships” of maker-consumer trust in the product. The combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk is less of an issue in terms of texture and fat content, since both milks are relatively similar. However, Elliott and many other outraged cheese lovers are more disturbed by the lack of integrity that these unnamed companies have exhibited by knowingly mislabeling their products. While Elliott and his team have not yet released the names of the nine fraudulent goat’s milk cheeses, he hopes that his findings will encourage other companies that have been taking shortcuts to reconsider their production process, for the sake of their business and their future reputation.Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of firstwefeast.com