One of France’s smelliest cheeses is under threat from rampaging wild boars, makers of Munster have warned.
Farmers in the eastern Haut-Rhin department, better known as Alsace, have sounded the alarm over the destructive boars, saying their foraging is ruining pastures for cows that produce the milk used for the notoriously stinky fromage.
Makers of Munster must respect strict rules to obtain its coveted appellation of origin label of quality, or AOP. These stipulate that at least 70 percent of cow fodder must come from the local farm.
Infamous for its pungent odour, the soft cheese is made from milk from Vosgiennes cows, a breed that was imported from Scandinavia in the 18th century and is known for the high protein content of their milk.
But a rocketing local boar population in the area has led to up to 60 per cent of pastures being uprooted as the beasts forage for acorns, tubers and underground grubs. Some 43 farms have been affected.
The situation has got so bad that farmers now say the production of France’s Munster cheese is in peril.
"They uproot the earth so we have a problem with the grass but what’s dangerous is that droppings and dust get into the hay. It’s not good for the animals or for the cheese," farmer Marc Weiss, whose son is a Munster cheese producer, told France Bleu.
He said the boar were intelligent creatures who were not put off by electric fences as they waited until the current was off momentarily due to a lack of clicks to charge into a field. Even when they repair the damage, the boars quickly return, threatening their livelihood.
"The cow’s milk is contaminated with the damage to the earth, it’s of a lower quality for making Munster. When it is handed to the cooperative, it is undervalued," said Philippe Iltis, president of rural coordination.
Farmers sent a letter to the regional state prefect asking for help – to no avail.
Now they are asking local hunters in the area to increase boar culls to reduce the wild boar population.
"I"m asking the hunters to shoot more of them. They must do their work and bring the population down," said Mr Iltis.
The cheese dates back to the seventh century when Irish monks began producing it at the monastery of the same name as a means of storing milk.
Matured in damp cellars, Munster has a "very pronounced, powerful aroma that is oddly reminiscent of fried eggs", according to the igourmet website, which warned it was "certainly not for the timid".
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The – some say unbearable – odour comes from the rind being regularly washed in brine.
It pairs very well with crisp white Alsacian whites or dessert wines.
While Munster is pretty pungent, its smell pales into comparison with Vieux Boulogne, which has been described as smelling of "unwashed feet and unwashed tom cat".
The delicacy – made in Pas de Calais and available only in the more open-minded shops – was scientifically ranked France’s smelliest cheese during a 2004 trial at Cranfield University, Bedfordshire.