The Real Reason French Salers Cheese May Be Harder To Come By

France is battling heat waves and severe drought, reports the New York Times, and farmland throughout the European country has suffered. While high temperatures may have benefitted some salt farmers in western France and some regional winemakers have seen a surge in lesser-grown grapes varieties, many dairy farmers have not been so lucky. According to The Guardian, cheese has become the latest industry to be felled by dry lands and wounded supply chains. Parched pastures mean less-than-happy cows and a reduced milk supply; Salers cheese, in particular, has been affected.

Salers is one of those unique specialty cheeses that takes on the flavors of the environment in which it is produced. According to USA Today, Salers is labeled AOP — which stands for appellation d'origine protégée, per France's Institut National de l'Origine et Qualité — an incredibly difficult food categories to qualify for. To make Salers, farms fall under strict guidelines, with long-standing criteria dictating how the cheese must be made. 

A precise window of production

Salers has been made in the same region for over 2,000 years. It can only be produced from April 15 to November 15 using raw milk from grass-fed cattle; Taste of France estimates fewer than 80 farmers are involved with this very specific process. Salers specifies that the cheese is made on the farm immediately after cows are milked and is matured from three months up to one year. The cheese is nutty and intense, described by Taste Atlas as having notes of raw onion, wildflowers, and grass.

With only a tiny window of time to produce this cheese, it is unsurprising local farmers are frustrated. "There's nothing left to eat," lamented farmer Laurent Roux to the France Bleu radio (per The Guardian). "The terrain is so dry that in places, it looks like ash. It's dust." With whispers of a winter milk shortage, farmers have ceased Salers production for the first time ever. Hopefully for cheesemakers and cheese lovers alike, the upcoming months bring rain to France's countryside.