Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients
From the Editor’s Desk: September/October 2007

The Mice that Roared


February 29, 2008
By Cam Wood

Topics

We should have known better. What initially appeared in
last month’s edition as a small information piece regarding cheese
standards in Canada has opened the door to greater debate, bigger
concern, and enduring controversy.

The Mice That Roared

We should have known better. What initially appeared in last month’s edition as a small information piece regarding cheese standards in Canada has opened the door to greater debate, bigger concern, and enduring controversy.

Of course, as those of us in the pizza industry know, nothing is simple when it comes to cheese.

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In the short time following its publication, we received calls from processors, pizzaiolos and cheesemakers across Canada. They are concerned, on a variety of levels, about how these changes will impact our industry.

To refresh, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced that they had published amendments to the regulations that determine cheese standards in the country. Currently there are two different sets of regulations, governed by two different federal acts under two different government agencies. The harmonization of the two was mandated in 2006 by then agriculture minister Chuck Strahl.

The standards, in a nutshell, will affect how cheese processors continue to make certain cheeses by dictating what ingredients can be used; such as fluid milk, milk components and cheese byproducts. In addition, the proposed standards will create a new cheese category specifically for pizza mozzarella.

What should have been writing on the wall was that the political process behind this will also create a new set of standards for frustration with cheese in Canada.

Beyond the sensitive issue of pricing, there are concerns – very real concerns – on how the proposed amendments to cheese standards in Canada will affect trade relationships, raw materials sourcing, how cheese made under the proposed standards will perform in commercial food operations, and the potential stunting of technological advancements made in the Canadian cheese industry.

Some say the move to “clarify” cheese standards in Canada is a political move, made at a time when the dairy industry holds significant voting power over a minority government looking to expand its reach into provinces, such as Quebec, and shore up support in the agricultural strongholds of western Canada. Others say it’s a move that comes at a time when consumers are growing extremely sensitive to food safety and food processing.

Either way, we can all expect significant changes to the industry tout de suite.

As our fellow pizzaiolos to the south are learning about increasing cheese prices, they remain in the dark about the issue on a global level. As one pizza-iolo pointed out in the debate, those in the United States are now just paying what Canadian pizzerias paid almost a decade ago. Milk prices in the United States hit a record in July, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It forecasts prices will remain high throughout the year.

International dairy product prices increased 46 per cent between November 2006 and April 2007, with milk powder prices increasing even faster, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. And there is no relief expected.

As the majority of this came to a head following the deadlines for this issue, we will have much more in-depth analysis in the November issue, looking at the concerns of the processors, more from pizzaiolos, and alternative suppliers.

Rest assured, like the satirical 1955 novel by Irish satirist Leonard Wibberley, the “mice” continue to roar in this conflict over cheese in Canada.•