Courtenay cheesemaker isn’t ‘grated’ by French concerns

Natural Pastures takes home bronze medal in world cheese championship

Natural Pastures Cheese Company is based in Courtenay and produces artisan cheeses using only local, island cow’s milk and water buffalo milk                                Natural Pastures Cheese Company is based in Courtenay and produces artisan cheeses using only local, Island cow’s milk and water buffalo milk.

Natural Pastures Cheese Company is based in Courtenay and produces artisan cheeses using only local, island cow’s milk and water buffalo milk Natural Pastures Cheese Company is based in Courtenay and produces artisan cheeses using only local, Island cow’s milk and water buffalo milk.

It’s caused a stink in France, but Canadian cheeses — including one made in the Comox Valley — have taken some of the top spots at a world-renowned cheese competition.

Held every two years in Madison, Wisconsin, the World Championship Cheese Contest ranks the best cheeses in the world in 121 categories ranging from mild cheddar to cow’s milk yogurt.

It is the largest competition of its kind, with 3,400 cheeses from 26 countries competing.

While the 2018 World Champion award went to a USA/French team, the category which caused the most controversy — Camembert —awarded Best in Class to Quebec’s Agropur, with third place going to Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay. (Second place went to Lactalis from Wisconsin).

“A Norman Camembert dethroned by a Quebecois!” read a headline in the Paris-Normandie newspaper, the traditional home of the soft cheese.

“France insulted by a cheese from here,” read another headline in Le Journal de Montreal.

With North American cheesemakers dominating the category, Doug Smith, operations manager for Natural Pastures said they were grateful for the placing, and in true Canadian fashion, are “quietly beaming, but we’re humble.”

“I look at it as that Canada maybe doesn’t have the reputation (of other cheesemaking countries), but we’ve been in business for 18 years. Over that period, there’s been a lot of good cheesemakers (in the country) that do a good job.”

He credited the location of the Comox Valley — particularly the ‘terre noire’ that gives the cheese a distinct flavour compared to other places in North America.

While the competition was tight (Agropur received a score of 99.45, followed by Lactalis with 99.40, then Natural Pastures with 99.35) Smith noted, “it’s kind of like the Olympics; in two years they might have Australia or the French take (the top spots).”

Two Camemberts from France placed in the 10th and 12th spot.

While the French may be expressing their horror with the upset, Smith said there are a variety of factors when it comes to judging cheese, and could leave out-of-continent cheeses at a bit of disadvantage due to overseas shipping.

“A day or two of aging can affect the flavour and really make a difference, so it depends how the cheese was transported and when it was tasted.”

In addition to the Camembert category, Natural Pastures placed top 10 in a variety of other categories. This isn’t the first time the Comox Valley producer took home awards for their cheeses (they received the same placing in the category in 2016) but Smith added, “we will take it when it comes and enjoy it.”

“I’m sure (the French) will be coming at us next time,” he said with a laugh.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Comox set to apply for two infrastructure grants

Sanitary sewer, sidewalk extension in the town’s plans

The number of reported assaults in Courtenay jumped from 302 in 2019 to 364 in 2020. File photo
Assaults up in Courtenay, according to police statistics

The number of assaults increased significantly in Courtenay from 2019 to 2020,… Continue reading

Sawyer, a northern saw-whet owl that became synonymous with Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, passed away peacefully over the weekend. Sawyer would make numerous public appearances with MARS staff in and around the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Photo supplied.
Popular MARS ambassador owl dies

Submitted MARS Wildlife Rescue has lost one of its mightiest ambassadors. Tiny… Continue reading

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox assisted in helping an injured hiker down from the top of Mt. Benson near Nanaimo Jan. 23. Photo by 19 Wing Comox
With video: 442 Squadron assists mid-Island mountain rescue

The crew on the Buffalo hand-launched 15 flares

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Comox Valley artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bowen Island artist Di Izdebski posted a video of orcas surfacing right next to the Bowen Island shoreline on Jan. 23, 2021. (Screenshot)
VIDEO: Shoreline close encounter with orcas near Bowen Island

Bowen Island resident has a memorable experience

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Christopher Anthony Craig Dick is wanted by the Port Alberni RCMP in connection to multiple investigations. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Vancouver Island RCMP seek man connected to assault investigations

Christopher Dick, 36, was recently in the North Cowichan and Duncan region

Vernon has agreed to a goose cull to control the over-populated invasive species making a muck of area parks and beaches. (Morning Star file photo)
Okanagan city pulls the trigger on goose cull

City asking neighbours to also help control over-population of geese

Most Read