James Grant, No2 Pound St: “Batten down the hatches”

09 May 2022, 07:22 AM
  • James Grant, owner of No2 Pound Street, argues that when it comes down to value, artisan cheese wins hands down
James Grant, No2 Pound St: “Batten down the hatches”

As we batten down the hatches to help us better weather the increased cost of living, it is clear that many households are now more than ever being careful with spending, especially when it comes to food.

So this month I am writing about how, as suppliers of exceptional, sustainable, economical and ethical produce, we are changing up to show our audience added value.
The sadly standardised and industrial cheese that line the supermarket shelves generally cost far less than those specialist cheeses made by hand on a farm or small artisan unit. However, there is a massive quality difference and one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Certain unnamed producers of supermarket cheeses generally buy huge amounts of milk from hundreds of farms and also often buy milk from continental Europe. All of the milk is then pooled into massive closed vats with pre-determined cultures. This is conveyor belt production that quite frankly annoys me. Sadly, this is where the majority of cheese sales fall and they are still considered the Holy Grail by the masses. The decision to buy this type of cheese is often based on price, a good-looking brand that is well advertised and often through television.

However, what those big brand cheeses don’t do is talk about how ethical, sustainable and economically viable their method of mass production really is. Imagine the demand on one of those dairy farmers supplying them with milk. What impact does this have on their livestock? Have you considered how much water and energy is needed to facilitate the production of industrial cheesemakers, which often make over 60 tons a day? Did you know that hydrogen sulphide is a by-product from the breakdown of organic waste and this is potentially lethal when inhaled? There are so many examples of how industrial dairy producers fail on the proper management of waste. This method of production is detrimental to environmental sustainability and clearly needs more stringent guidelines from our government. When next in Cornwall breathe deeply and if you smell rotten eggs beware… would you not prefer to smell the beautiful fresh country air that we are all so wanting back?

Something that my business is now doing is investing time with artisan cheesemakers and buying cheese that is both cost effective for my business but also for our lovely customers. Artisan cheesemakers (as I have said before) often employ the same number of staff as industrial. This means that they have a lot more to pay out and are left with a far smaller net profit. Most artisan producers that I deal with are happy with subsistence as are the majority of people that are truly passionate about what they do.

The number of cheeses that we hold at No2 is significant. However, there is something for everyone. We have an excellent mature Cheddar, for example, and a good soft mould-ripened cheese that is a staple for many of our regulars. The difference and a key selling point over industrial and cheaper offerings is taste. This is where artisan wins hands down. I remember my mum using up to 400g of supermarket extra farmhouse holy grail vintage to mix with her bechamel for the cauliflower cheese to be served with Sunday lunch. Today I use possibly 150g and a sprinkle on top of Teifi Mature or Keens Mature, or a mixture of both. Consequently, our Sunday lunch is exceptionally tasty with a much smaller amount of cheese needed to make probably the most important family meal of the week. The point I make is that my mum’s cauliflower cheese was great, but there really wasn’t the need for so much cheese had it been artisan.

When you put value for money and value of product together artisan wins hands down. You only need to use small amounts to begin with, also you can rest easy as the production methods are second to none and it is better for the environment. Buy entrance level artisan cheese and see how they compare, generally these will be younger age profile cheeses, but have a far better and long-lasting taste.

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