Why it's not “normal” to find fresh goat's cheese in the middle of winter on the shelves of your supermarkets

Why it's not "normal" to find fresh goat's cheese in the middle of winter on the shelves of your supermarkets

The milk production of goats is seasonal, it occurs after the calving season, which starts in March. Illustration MAXPPP – Jean-Marc Quinet

Broadcast this Monday, April 15 on France 5, the new episode of Sur le Front focuses on cheeses, an emblem of French gastronomy, and inevitably subject to very strong market pressures.

Fresh goat cheese, all year round. This is no surprise to consumers, any more than finding tomatoes in December. But like fruits and vegetables, cheeses also have a seasonality. However, the fresh goats' cheese that you put on your winter trays are not imported from warmer countries but rather French. So how is this possible ?

This is the question that Hugo Clément answers in the show Sur le Front broadcast this April 15. Entitled "Cheese : where has our terroir gone ? ", it shows a darker side of cheese production, which does not escape the race for profitability.

Season the goats

So, to sell fresh goat's cheese in winter, some producers "deseason" the goats. To "have milk at the end of the year", it is therefore a matter of making the goats believe that they are they are in the milk production season, which occurs after the birth period, from March.

Meet by Hugo Clément, a breeder explains that he de-seasons his goats with neon lighting, which imitates the summer cycle of the sun. Other breeders sometimes resort to hormonal treatments, which lead to a change in the goats' cycle.

This modification of the goats' natural cycle, whether caused by light or by hormones, is also explained by the fact that in winter, goat's cheese sells more expensively. An economic motivation that is difficult to condemn given the difficulties faced by farmers and breeders.

Long lactation as an alternative?

In the journalist's Instagram post, a goat breeder comments highlighting her practice, also mentioned by the show, that of long lactation, which consists of not breeding goats each year but to maintain their lactation by stimulating it, over a longer period of 3 to 5 years.

A less profitable practice, however, since on the scale of a farm, long lactation cannot be applied to the entire herd. "In practice, the percentage of long lactations should not exceed 50 % of the herd and the renewal rate maintained at 20-25 %" recommends the Livestock Institute.

Some cheesemakers refuse to sell fresh goat's cheese in winter, precisely to respect this seasonality of cheeses, a little less known, of course, than that of fruits and vegetables.

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