If there's one universally loved cheese guaranteed to make it onto our charcuterie boards and Wine Wednesday snack platters, it's Camembert—the soft, spreadable and desirably funky wheel that always has us tearing off another hunk of a baguette. Unfortunately, this prized cheese's days are dwindling.
To be labeled a true Camembert de Normandie, the cheese's rind must be stamped with the PDO label—signifying it actually came from the land of butter-laden kouign-amann and briny shellfish. This authentic stuff, Bloomberg reports, must be made to exacting specifications: The milk must be raw, unfiltered and have a buttery fat content of at least 38 percent, while the cows must be fed a strict diet of local grass and hay, among a whole list of other finicky rules.
The problem? There's no longer enough French farmers willing to go through this complicated process. Larger corporations are continuously buying out smaller artisans—who've been producing the genuine funky Camembert that's the stuff of our Parisian daydreams—and, in turn, are cranking out fake versions sold under a generic label.
Today, only four out of the 360 million wheels (that's just a little more than 1 percent) of Camembert made annually are PDO approved, but as little farms keep disappearing, that number is going to steadily decline.
So what does this mean for Stateside cheese heads? Due to long-standing regulations of importing raw milk products, chances are you've actually never had real Camembert in the first place. And while there are some admittedly good domestic cheese makers churning out their own versions, the moral of this story is that it's time for you to book a ticket to France and seek out this endangered species for yourself—before it potentially goes away.