The British cheese industry

british blue cheeseboard_20000

There are more than 700 named British cheeses produced in the UK. From Cheddar to Cheshire, Brie to Stilton, there are very few cheeses that are not made within the British Isles.

Cheese is bought by 98% of UK households, with the average Brit eating 30g a day. This may sound like a considerable amount, but our friends over in France, Italy and Greece all eat roughly twice as much cheese per person as we do.

The most popular cheese in the UK is cheddar, which accounts for 55% of sales. It’s named after the Cheddar Gorge caves in Somerset where it used to be stored to ripen. The second favourite cheese is mozzarella, which is traditionally made from buffalo milk, however nowadays it’s most commonly made from cow’s milk. Cheese can also be made from sheep and goat milk.

It takes 10 litres of milk to make 1kg of hard cheese. There’s a basic four-step process to making which consists of curdling, draining, pressing and ripening. To start, the milk is separated into curds and whey, the curd is the lumpy bit which goes on to make the cheese. The whey is the liquid by-product which can be used to make other things such as nutritional supplements or additives in animal feeds. Some cheeses are stored for a year or more to ripen before they are ready to eat.

Did you know...

The UK cheese export market is worth £675 million.

In 2018 alone, British producers made a massive 465,000 tonnes of cheese!

Snowdonia Cheese Company - Harvey & Brockless_30153

Cheeses from the Snowdonia Cheese Company

So how did we discover that we could make cheese from milk? Well, the origins are unclear, but experts think it dates back to around 7,000 BC from the Middle East. The Romans then developed and improved the original cheese-making process and spread their expertise throughout Europe. Little changed until the Middle Ages, when European monasteries revived the practice of cheese making. Monks are credited with developing milder-tasting cheeses such as brie and camembert.

Not only is cheese delicious, it’s versatile too. It’s one of very few ingredients that can be eaten at any meal of the day as a starter, main or dessert. It also boasts a variety of health benefits. It's a source of protein, which is needed for the development of bones, and B12, which contributes to red blood formation. A matchbox-sized piece of cheese provides a third of an adult’s daily requirement for calcium.

So not only is this age-old food delicious, versatile, long-lasting and a true craft to make, it’s also packed full of nutritional goodness.

All about cheese

  • Cheshire is the oldest of British cheeses. It dates back to Roman times and even gets a mention in the Domesday Book.
  • In 1987, a 1,400-year-old piece of cheese was unearthed in a Tipperary bog in Ireland – it was still edible!
  • There are more than 2,000 varieties produced across the world.
  • A turophile is the word used to describe a true connoisseur and lover of good cheese.
  • Contrary to popular belief, mice actually prefer chocolate over cheese every time. Mice love sweet-smelling food, so they would be more tempted by a piece of chocolate than a chunk of cheddar.

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Related categories: Cheese Food

Last edited: 03 January 2020 at 10:54

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