Oxford Mail September 2013

Ox Mail 9Sep13photo

Cheesemaker goes green to keep Ox-Mail-9Sep13Oxford Blue in county

French-born Baron Robert Pouget was fuming after his dream to produce Oxford Blue Cheese in the county for the first time turned sour.

But now the Oxford-based cheese producer is hoping that going green could save his blue.

Mr Pouget, 74, who lives in Oxford, had the idea for a creamy English blue cheese almost 20 years ago and named it Oxford Blue.

But despite its growing popularity both here and abroad, he has until now been forced to produce it out of the county, due to a lack of suitable production sites.

In April this year, he revealed he had been granted planning permission on a production unit at Upton Smokery, outside Burford, and was on track to start making Oxford Blue using locally-produced milk by the end of this year.

He had not factored in the 50,000 litres of waste whey his cheese would produce each month – but may finally have come up with an eco-friendly solution using a facility at Homeleaze Farm, just over the border in Gloucestershire.

Mr Pouget said: “We were going great guns with everything falling into place, but frankly a load of whey has really got in the way.”

“Whey is a waste product of cheese and you can’t just pour it down the drains.”

“Our current producer, Butlers of Lancaster, like all big producers, has the expensive equipment needed to extract the powder from the whey, which is then used in animal feeds and as fertiliser.  But obviously we are small and don’t have the equipment needed to dispose of the 50,000 litres a month we produce, so we have to find another way to get rid of it”

Mr Pouget said his options were to pay to have the whey taken away to a processing plant each week which would push the price of his cheese up.  Or he could find another production site altogether.

Now it seems there could be another way.  He said: “In the last few days we have heard that there is a farm nearby that has an anaerobic digester – a machine used to make electric power from waste, which might be suitable to accept the whey.

“Of course we have to get proper advice and permission, but the main advantage of this is that it is only five miles away from our site, so we could transport the whey by tractor – and on top of that Oxford Blue could also become pretty green.  It’s very exciting.”

Mr Pouget owns Oxford Fine Foods and produces five tonnes of Oxford blue each month, exporting a tonne to America and Germany.

He said: “We have great plans for our Upton base with a shop and a café alongside the smokery.  And I’m not going to let a load of whey spoil that.  Whatever happens I am determined to be producing Oxford Blue here in Oxfordshire by the end of the year.”

Written by Debbie Waite dwaite@oxfordmail.co.uk

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