We bring you good news today from one of Alf’s favourite people, although she lives outside his electorate boundaries down the road a bit from here and doesn’t necessarily vote for John Hayes in Wairarapa.
The lovely lady he speaks about is Biddy, the Eketahuna cheese-maker who a year or so ago featured in this blog after falling foul of the bloody bureaucrats in the food safety business.
The absurd story about her encounter with silly rules was told first by Farmers Weekly and was picked up by the Sunday Star-Times. Both pages, alas, are no longer available to on-line searchers.
As Alf reported here at that time, the buggers shut down her cheese-making business after it was featured on the TV series Country Calendar.
Pensioner Biddy Fraser-Davies, who owns three cows, has been making cheese on her farm, 20 minutes north of Masterton, for the past seven years, selling it to tourists and supplying several top-end restaurants and hotels including Wairarapa’s Countryman restaurant and four-star Copthorne Hotel and Resort.
On July 11 last year, the night her business, Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese, featured on the programme, she received an email from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) saying she was breaking the law by not having a risk management plan.
In a comment on that post today, Biddy has provided Alf’s constituents (and her near-neighbours) with an update.
From March 2012 to May 2013 she worked with the Ministry of Primary Industry officials as they developed a programme for “Micro Cheese makers”.
It was designed for people with six or fewer cows, 10 buffalo or 24 sheep or 24 goats.
Milk production had to be under 1000 litres of milk a week.
Her milk volume averages out at around 260 litres a week throughout the year -she staggers her calving so she always has milk to make into cheese.
The PMI mandarins may well have taken steps to accommodate Biddy and her ilk.
But (according to what she says) the buggers still set a bothersome set of demands.
Under this programme only heat treated milk can be made into hard cheese, which must conform to less than 39% moisture, have a pH of 5.6 or less and a salt in moisture content of not less than 4% and the process must not take longer than 5½ hours from addition of commercially produced starter and draining the whey. During the year, MPI tested every cheese I made during that period -140 cheeses. No pathogenic bacteria was found in any, although I did have a slightly elevated pH in a few of them (and the taste of these particular cheeses was always superb!) I have since changed my ‘make’ procedures to ensure that my pH level doesn’t rise into the naughty level!
Sadly MPI couldn’t find any other cheese maker to go on the programme, Biddy tells us.
Presumably that’s because the regime was so prescriptive – you could only make hard cheese and you had to either own or lease the lactating animals yourself and be responsible for their sole care and management.
But the big deal is that Biddy is still making and legally selling her cheese and milking her lovely cows.
She finished her comment with something that looks like a free advertisement:
“Come and have a taste at our place – Middleton Model Railway and Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese!
It’s a great little business and Alf is happy to give her the free plug.
He might even get a chance to mention her battle with the bureaucrats and the triumphant outcome next time we get around to debating food safety or some such in the House.