Attention cheese lovers: the top three cheese-related perks of the EU, Canada free trade deal

Attention cheese lovers: the top three cheese-related perks of the EU, Canada free trade deal

(Image: Martin Abegglen)

Canada’s free trade agreement with the EU means big things for cheese. The historic deal, finalized just this morning, doubles the amount of overseas cheese that can be sold in Canada each year. Reactions, so far, have been predictably mixed, with dairy farmers and cheese makers bemoaning the impact of so much subsidized European cheese on Canadian producers; cheese retailers expressing cautious optimism; and the Facebooking public coming down on both sides of the debate. We spoke with five Toronto cheese experts to figure out the vital takeaways for local fromageophiles. Here, the top three things to look forward to in the world of Canadian cheese.

1. Cheese prices will probably (hopefully) go down
All the experts we spoke with were optimistic that the trade deal would result in lower cheese prices for consumers. Michael Simpson, owner of Leslieville Cheese Market, noted that cheese prices have skyrocketed in recent years: “People always say my shop is great but expensive,” he said. “It’s not my shop that’s expensive, though. It’s cheese.”

2. Variety will go up
The best perk of the trade deal? More cheese. Canadian retailers currently order inventory through a handful of big importers and are limited by what those mega-players decide to carry. Charles Bougouin, manager of Harbord Village cheese shop Chabichou, reckons he currently has access to about 30 per cent of European cheeses. The first things he’ll stock, if given the chance: Saint Nectaire, a nutty French cheese favoured by Louis XIV, and a Corsican sheep’s cheese called Brin D’Amour (“Breath of Love”), whose rind comes studded with fennel seeds, juniper berries and bird’s eye chilies. Cheese Emporium owner Steve Maggirias, meanwhile, would love to see more unpasteurized European cheeses, including Mimolette, a raw goat’s milk cheese with a greyish, cantaloupe-like crust that’s intentionally infested with living cheese mites (they apparently add flavour).

3. Canadian cheese will still be awesome
Quality always sells. That’s the message from Afrim Pristine, co-owner of the Cheese Boutique, who’s confident that exceptional Canadian producers will continue to thrive, despite increased competition from Euro cheeses. After all, just look at Margaret Peters, whose gouda-style Lankaaster was recently crowned Global Supreme Champion of cheese. Bougouin agrees: two of his favourite cheeses at the moment are Québecois—a semi-soft cheese called Le Mont-Jacob and an organic raw cheese called Le Gré Des Champs. Plus, more Euro competition will force Canadian cheese makers to innovate, which, according to Simpson, will only make things better: “It’ll create new Canadian cheeses that don’t exist anywhere.” Amen.