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European Cheese Export Masters: And the Winner is ….

The Europeans make good cheese. Because it is so delicious, they eat most of it themselves. By the way: Who would have thought that the nations known for the very best cheese in the world are not the main cheese exporters?

Berlin, August 29th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Buying cheese in Northern Virginia is easy. At Safeway, located at 9596 Old Keene Mill Road in Burke, only minutes from Washington D.C., they offered the following kinds around the year 2000: Cheddar, Cheddar and Cheddar. Lucky customers would find some Cheddar too.

The Best Cheeses Stink

Things looked very different at Trader Joe’s at the Pickett Shopping Center in Fairfax. Here they had Camembert, Leerdamer and Gouda, imported from Europe. But the price tags would give people heart attacks. Good cheese in North America? A difficult subject.

Across the pond, in a continent called Europe, they produce cheese like crazy. There are hundreds of kinds in several categories. Soft cheeses, semi-soft cheeses, fresh, medium-hard, semi-hard and hard cheese. There are mold cheeses, processed cheeses and brined cheeses. Europe is all about cheese. Say cheese!

The French and the Germans are known to produce cheeses which literally stink like hell. If not sealed in plastic foil or locked in a proper container, transporting that stuff is tricky. It should be hung up on the external rear view mirror during the trip.

German Cheese Counters

Munster, Limburger, Pont-l’Évêque, Harzer, Chaumes and Romadur are among the most stinky cheeses money can buy. The problem is that they are among the most delicious ones too.

The Belgians and French produce the greatest cheeses. So do the Swiss who also love melting certain kinds. There are several different recipes for cheese fondue, and no matter which one it is: There is nothing better on this planet. Cheese fondues are calorie bombs, but they sure as hell taste good. And there is Raclette, which the Swiss melt in a machine with one little drawer for each bite.

Cheese counters in more expensive German supermarkets are fascinating spots because some of them offer 200 kinds. If anyone wanted to try a tiny piece of each of them in one go, he or she would need to be rushed to a hospital afterwards.

Consumption and Digestion

Eurostat, the European Statistical Office, came up with its latest relevant numbers in 2019. According to those, the E.U. member states produced 10.2 million tons of cheese in 2017. A total of 75.5 million tons of milk was used in the production process. Most of the cheese was made from cow milk.

Fresh cheese is the most popular kind in the European Union, followed by medium hard cheese and hard cheese. And the Dutch produced most of it, right? Wrong. The Germans did. They made 2.2 million tons, the French contributed 1.9 million and Italians 1.3 million tons. Sure, the Dutch and Poles are big cheese producers too.

In the past years, the amount of cheese Germany exported has been increasing steadily. Four years ago, 1.21 million metric tons of it was sold abroad. Last year, in 2020, the Germans exported 1.31 million tons. Damn. That is a whole lot of cheese. So, what do the Germans do with the 1 million tons of cheese per year which they do not export? They consume and digest it, along with all the cheese they import.

Exports Galore

And the winner is: Germany. Say “cheeeeese”! The Germans export far more cheese than the Netherlands or France. Mais, oui!

More cheese facts? Sure. The E.U. exports hundreds of thousands of metric tons of cheese to non-E.U. countries, including to the U.S., in order to satisfy those Trader Joe’s folks and their more wealthy customers. But guess where most of the “European non-E.U. cheese exports” end up: They go to Switzerland, which makes the most delicious cheese itself. Go figure.

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