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Uniquely Yorkshire


A BATTLE is being fought to safeguard real Wensleydale cheese from imitation with special EU protection.

And the Yorkshire Post is backing the fight with our new Uniquely Yorkshire campaign.

Read more about the campaign in this section>>

Uniquely Yorkshire is supporting the bid by Wensleydale Dairy Products to obtain European protection to prevent manufacturers outside Wensleydale from producing a cheese with the same name.

The company is the main producer of the famed cheese but other producers within the dale will also benefit.

Made to a time-honoured recipe at the firm's Wensleydale Creamery for more than 100 years, the company's hand-crafted and cloth-bound cheeses are made with milk from 34 farms. Obtaining protected status will not only ensure consumers get the best quality cheese but also secure the future prosperity of Wensleydale.

Why is Wensleydale so special?

Cheese produced at the Wensleydale Creamery is made with cows milk from 36 farms in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The wild flowers, herbs and grasses that grow on the limestone meadows in the area, where artificial fertilisers and chemicals are restricted, give the milk, and hence the cheese, its unique and special flavour.

Wensleydale cheese has been made in Wensleydale since 1150. Cistercian monks passed down the art to local farmers who made the cheese in their farmhouses.

In 1897 Edward Chapman began to purchase milk from surrounding farms for the manufacture of cheese on a larger scale at his dairy in Hawes.

The dairy, which has been handcrafting the traditional hard cheese for more than 100 years, was rescued from closure in the 1930s by Kit Calvert, and more recently with a management buy-out in 1992. It does not use sweeteners and its traditional, blue, smoked and mature varieties are all hand-crafted and cloth bound.

Originally, Wensleydale cheese was sold as either "fresh" - white, or "ripe" - blue. The blue veined Wensleydale was the norm and it was only until production moved to the creamery that the white became more popular.

What does this protected status mean?

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) would prevent any manufacturers outside Wensleydale from producing a cheese with the same name.

It aims to promote and protect food products in the EU and is used to describe foods which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using traditional methods.

There are just 29 UK products whose names are protected by the EU. Only Swaledale Cheese and Swaledale Ewe’s Cheese - produced by The Swaledale Cheese Company - are in Yorkshire. This is in stark contrast to France and Italy who have around 300 between them, including Roquefort and Ricotta Romana.

If the bid is successful, the cheese produced by Wensleydale Dairy Products, based in Hawes in the heart of Wensleydale, would be called Real Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. It will mean consumers will know they are eating the real product - a hand-crafted cheese made from natural Wensleydale milk with a unique taste.

Other producers of the cheese in Wensleydale will be protected by the EU status, but those outside will not and cannot share the same name.

Who is backing the campaign?

Support is already mounting for the Uniquely Yorkshire campaign. MP William Hague has pledged his support and celebrity chef Brian Turner is backing the application.

Smaller producers of cheese within the dale are also supporting the bid.

David Hartley, managing director of Wensleydale Dairy Products, said protected status was something he had been considering for a few years.

"We are only one of a few makers of real Wensleydale cheese who are actually based in the Dale. More importantly, we only use milk produced by dairy herds grazed in Wensleydale. The Wensleydale brand is one of our most precious assets and it is right and proper that we should protect it."

“In doing so we are protecting the long-term economy of the Dale and the livelihood of hundreds of people who live and work here."

So what happens now?

The application has been submitted to Defra, the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs.  It is due to be presented to European officials in Brussels within the month. 


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