L’Ancetre Cheese Factory
Located south of Trois-Rivières, Québec, L’Ancetre Cheese Factory is well known to the Canadian dairy industry for offering a variety of organic cheeses and fresh, daily-made cheese curd. The company’s story dates back to 1992, when a group of ten milk producers got together and decided they wanted to return to traditional methods of agriculture, those that are respectful of nature and the environment. For the group, it was the only way to rediscover the authentic, natural taste of dairy products. With that in mind, the producers also knew that modern technology would have to be used for quality and food safety, so the company sought to strike a balance.
The first product in L’Ancetre’s line-up was organic cheddar cheese, made with organic raw milk. After building a cheese and dairy retail store in 1995, L’Ancetre began to develop new products, such as organic pasteurized cheese and organic butters. Slowly, the company started making a name for itself, until eventually its distribution went from Québec-only all the way to western Canada (in 1996), the Maritimes (in 1999) and, most recently, Ontario.
L’Ancetre Cheese Factory still manufactures organic raw milk cheddar as its mainstay, and that’s what the company is celebrated for. But its range of new organic products—such as coloured and marble mild cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, and butter—have also found room in the customers’ hearts. And that’s a good thing, because L’Ancetre is constantly working to develop new products.
Besides manufacturing organic cheese and butter, L’Ancetre Cheese Factory also sells fine local and imported cheeses. It also provides a restaurant service, which offers its own products and other gourmet meals. In fact, the cheese factory is one of the most interesting tourist attractions of the region.
As you might guess, the production of organic products has specific requirements that go beyond the regular Canadian Food Inspection Agency criterion. In order to be called ‘certified organic,’ the plant must strictly adhere to the standards set by a recognized certifier, which is Québec Vrai in this case. Thus, as a manufacturer of organic products, L’Ancetre Cheese Factory is very deliberate about its process.
It also means the raw material suppliers are selected very carefully. The milk used by L’Ancetre must only come from certified organic dairy farms, so the animals will have had to consume certified organic food that was cultivated without fertilizers or synthetic pesticides. Rules also exist concerning the care and treatment of the cows. In order for a dairy farm to be certified organic, it takes a minimum of four years—three for the transition of the fields and one year for the transition of the herds.
In addition to complying with standards for organic certification, the company has to abide by regulations for using raw milk in its cheese. Since the milk has not been pasteurized, the cheese has to be kept or held at a temperature of at least 2°C for a period of 60 days or more from the date of the beginning of the manufacturing process, in order to conform to the standards of The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (B.08.030).
The organic raw milk cheese develops different textures and taste depending on the manufacturing process but also according to the length of time of aging. The organic raw milk mild cheddar requires sixty days of aging, the medium cheddar requires six months, the old cheddar requires one year, and the extra sharp requires two and three years, the Swiss Emmental requires two months, and the Parmesan requires twelve months. As you can imagine, it’s quite a process.
By comparison, the hygiene standards of pasteurized cheese—which L’Ancetre also makes—do not require a minimum time of maturation, because potential pathogens have been destroyed by the pasteurization process. For this cheese, the purpose of the aging is specifically for organoleptic characteristics, or sensory properties, such as taste, colour, odour and texture.
Taste the difference
After so much time and care is put into its products—right down to what the cow was eating before it produced the milk—it is no wonder that L’Ancetre Cheese Factory is so successful. The company has certainly set itself apart in quality and customers can appreciate the taste that a little more effort makes. Even the retailers that carry L’Ancetre products have assured a strong presence in their stores, which include major grocery chains in Québec (Métro, IGA, Provigo, and Loblaws) and more specialized natural food stores in the rest of Canada.
If you have never experienced the difference, the cheese is definitely worth seeking out. Better yet, visit the L’Ancetre Cheese Factory; it’s beside the Laviolette Bridge, south of Trois-Rivières. From May to September, you can go and enjoy fine cheeses and a delicatessen, as well as ice cream made by Québec artisans.
For more information, check out the website at http://www.fromagerieancetre.com