REUTERS

Royal cheese rescue

This is the story of how the Prince of Wales rescued artisan cheesemakers from potential ruin

ANDREW J. LINN

Whether we love 'em, hate 'em, or just put up with 'em, those living in countries with monarchies have a singular air about them. Leafing through the foreign media after the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, it is clear that non-monarchical nations feel slightly inferior, however much they may disagree. Freedom from governmental considerations allows the hereditary leader of a kingdom exclusive privileges, and the story of how the Prince of Wales rescued Britain's artisan cheesemakers from impending ruin is a case in point.

In the 1990s a series of food scares shook the nation and had lawmakers hellbent on introducing exaggerated health measures aimed at food safety. One proposition was that only pasteurised milk be used for cheesemaking, something that would have been a death sentence for artisanal producers. Farmers selling unpasteurised milk have different views on how food should be delivered to the consumer, but cheesemakers, in this case those using only 'natural' milk, would have had to close their businesses. Battle lines were drawn, but fortunately the Prince of Wales is patron of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, although only in an honorary position. Nevertheless, he got the politicians to agree it was important to encourage traditional cheesemaking, and then invited all parties to meet at his Highgrove Estate.

The result was a revision of the proposed legislation, and today Britain has over 700 different farmhouse cheeses, probably more than the French. Artisanal cheese, many made with unpasteurised milk, is a multi-million pound a year industry, supporting hundreds of small farms and thousands of jobs, all of which would have disappeared without HRH's initiative.