Behind the Rind: Farmhouse, Artisan and Mass Produced Cheese - What's the Difference?

Cheese can typically be separated into three categories according to how they are produced: farmhouse cheese, artisan cheese and mass produced cheese. But how do these production methods differ, and why is it so important to support small local cheese makers?

Understanding these differences help us to appreciate the quality Australian farmhouse products that are growing every year. 

Farmhouse cheese is made from the milk produced at a single farm.  These cheeses develop a unique flavour specific to the region, season and environment - these factors are known as the ‘terroir’. 

These cheeses are strong and fragrant thanks to a short milking and production period. The flavours can easily vary depending on many different factors: the grass the animals grazed on, the soil, changes in climate, the animals themselves, and due to the nature of handmade products.  For example, 

Black Sheep is a unique farmhouse cheese made by Prom Country in South Gippsland. It's a dense and creamy sheep's milk cheese that's rolled in ash to resemble the black coloured Moyarra ewes that supply the milk.  This cheese takes on distinctive herbal notes thanks to the sheep eating the native flora grown in Gippsland. Though subtle in flavour, Black Sheep displays the terroir of the region in it delicately eucalypt notes and fresh citric flavours.

Farmhouse products also contribute to sustainable farming.  The method of manufacture goes hand-in-hand with sustainable farming of the land, rather than the intensive mass production needed for larger companies.

Artisan cheese making is very similar to farmhouse, except that the farmer uses their own milk and also milk from other local farms, and is also usually handmade. 

Mass produced cheese is made using milk from many different farms and is produced on a much larger scale. The cheese in the big dairy industry is predominantly made using machinery and automated processes, with the priority being that their shape and taste meet the requirements of supermarkets.  Unfortunately, ‘terroir’ is a word rarely associated with mass produced cheese. Sustainable farming can be difficult to attain when working with mass production. Unfortunately, uniformity and consistency often trump flavour.

When you buy farmhouse and artisan cheese, you know you're supporting a producer who has put a lot of love and care into the cheese they've created.  Be sure to take note of where your cheese comes from and see if you can taste the terroir!

Our cellars are currently overflowing with local and imported farmhouse and artisan cheese. If you’re interested in learning more or need a hand choosing a cheese, then please pop in and have a chat with our cheesemongers.