Cheesed off: will stilton survive the pandemic?

Sales are down by 30% since the coronavirus outbreak, and evidence shows it’s not just in the UK where cheeses are falling from favour

Name: Stilton.

Age: Unknown.

Appearance: Pale and rather pungent.

Swipe left. It’s a cheese, not a person.

You’re not really selling it to me either way. But it’s delicious. You should give stilton a try, now more than ever.

Why now? Because it is under threat from coronavirus.

Are you telling me that Covid-19 has jumped species, from man to cheese? No, I am not.

Because that cheese definitely looks as if it has caught something. As a matter of fact, it has been laced with the fungus penicillium roqueforti, resulting in blue stilton’s distinct smell and mouldy appearance.

Bletch. Stilton has been enjoyed by cheese-lovers for centuries, and now boasts Protected Designation of Origin status (PDO), which means it can only be produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Huh. I would have imagined that you had to make it in Stilton. Stilton, the town that gave the cheese its name, is in Cambridgeshire. You’re not allowed to make stilton in Stilton.

And it’s under threat, you say? Sales are down 30% as a result of the lockdown, thanks to the closing of restaurants and farmer’s markets.

How much stilton are we talking about? According to the Stilton Cheese Makers’ Association (SCMA), 8,000 tonnes are produced annually. A lot of that is exported, but evidence suggests people are going off cheese everywhere. Cheese sales in France are down as much as 60%.

A tough year ahead, then. It’s worse than that – the SCMA is worried this setback might deter the next generation of cheesemakers from producing stilton at all, putting the very existence of the cheese at risk.

I’ll admit I have given little thought to the effect of the pandemic on the next generation of cheesemakers. The decline in sales could also hurt the 70-odd dairy farms that supply milk to stilton producers.

What do they want me to do about all this? They want you to buy stilton instead of imported blue cheese. Meanwhile, they are exploring other marketing and distribution strategies.I’ll tell you what – they should promote stilton as a cure for 5G radiation. But that would be grossly, even criminally irresponsible.

Maybe, but I would definitely buy it. Are you sure it can’t protect you from 5G? I suppose one could accurately claim that 5G radiation poses no risk to people who eat stilton – or anyone else for that matter.

Do say: “Come home to stilton (the cheese, not the place).”

Don’t say: “Blessed are the cheesemakers! We’ll be clapping for you on Thursday!”

The GuardianTramp

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