The economics of cheese

Free trade is not only good for prosperity, it is also good for fine food shopping. Here are some pithy comments on a recent book on the history of Camembert cheese:

Fifty years ago, or even twenty-five, it was very hard, if not impossible, to get cru Camembert – or gold seal balsamic vinegar, or single-estate Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, or jambon de Bayonne, or Ortiz salt-packed Spanish anchovies, or Niçoise olives – if you didn’t live in a world metropolis or in the regions near where they were produced. Now they are all widely available. Thanks to the Internet, Fedex, the food-writers (and their globalised publishing firms), the once-local has become global.

Nor is it just the distant local that has a place in the markets; preferences for the local local are now better catered for than at any time in the recent past: farmers’ markets flourish as never before in both Britain and America; the role of the “forager” – searching out the quality produce of local farmers for top restaurants – has become institutionalised; the formerly resistant Californian wine industry is rediscovering the power of place as against the manipulations of the scientific winemaker; the cheese plates at better American eateries feature increasingly convincing Sonoma County goat cheeses and one of the finest semi-soft goat cheeses in the world, the Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog; the Slow Food movement gathers strength throughout the world and reinforces the revival of the local and the seasonal.

Here is the full book review, from The London Review of Books, the piece is interesting throughout. Here is an earlier post on the corporate origins of Maytag cheese in the United States. Here is a post on using radar to improve the quality of wine.

The bottom line: When I first started going to Europe, in the early 1980s, I was amazed at the quality of the foodstuffs, but America is catching up rapidly. The next steps: lower price supports for dairy products, lower duties on foreign cheese, and free importation of non-pasteurized cheeses, the opposite of what Hillary Clinton wants.


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