Are you a fan of Saga blue cheese? If so, you may be disappointed to hear that Arla Foods, one of the largest producers of this creamy, mild blue-veined cheese, has announced the closure of its small dairy in Muskegon, Michigan.
This means that the locally produced blue range under the Saga brand, including brie, Castello soft blue, brie, and camembert, will no longer be available after December.
But fear not, there are still plenty of other delicious specialty cheeses to explore.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what happened to Saga blue cheese and explore some alternative options for cheese lovers.
What Happened To Saga Blue Cheese?
Saga blue cheese has been a favorite among cheese lovers for over 30 years. However, Arla Foods’ decision to close its small dairy in Muskegon, Michigan, means that the production of Saga blue cheese will come to an end.
Arla Foods has stated that it will be focusing on its premium specialty cheeses under the Castello brand in the US. This means that the locally produced blue range under the Saga brand will be discontinued.
While it’s always sad to see a beloved product disappear, it’s important to remember that the world of cheese is vast and there are plenty of other options to explore.
The History Of Saga Blue Cheese
Saga blue cheese is a Danish cheese that has been enjoyed by cheese lovers for over a century. The exact origins of Saga blue cheese are unknown, but it is believed to have been first produced by the Tholstrup family in 1893 at their family dairy in Karlsunde, Denmark.
Originally, the recipe for Saga blue cheese was a closely guarded secret of the Tholstrup family. However, over time, the cheese became commercialized and was sold to the public. Today, the Tholstrup family owns three production companies that produce over 10,000 tonnes of cheese for commercial sale.
Saga blue cheese is made from double cream cow’s milk and is a mixture of blue cheese and brie. The cheese has a creamy texture and delicate blue veins running through it. It is sold in a cylinder with a white edible mold rind.
While Saga blue cheese is known for its mild taste and spreadable texture, it still has the traditional pungency and taste associated with blue cheeses. As with other blue cheeses, Saga blue cheese becomes stronger in taste and pungency with age and handling.
Despite its mild taste, Saga blue cheese is versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. It pairs well with bitter green salad leaves, red apples, pears, melons, and stone fruit. It can also be used in sauces, dips, and dressings.
Why Did Arla Foods Close The Muskegon Dairy?
Arla Foods’ decision to close the Muskegon dairy is part of a larger plan to streamline its US business and refocus on specialty cheese. The Danish dairy cooperative will be closing one of its two US dairy plants, with the Muskegon facility being shut down on December 31, 2012. Production from the plant will be transferred to another facility in Denmark in the upcoming autumn months.
According to Arla Foods, the closure of the Michigan plant will make the company more cost-effective. However, this decision is not solely about cutting costs in the US. It’s about streamlining their US business and adapting the products they manufacture and market in the country. The company has stated that sales of the products produced at the Michigan facility had not been satisfactory. This, combined with the fact that they already produce these products in Denmark, made it an easy decision to close the plant.
It’s worth noting that while production will be slowed in the next few months at the Muskegon plant, production at Arla’s remaining Wisconsin plant will be unaffected. The company is showing good growth in the US and has informed retailers that it intends to introduce a number of specialty cheeses produced at its European dairies to the US market.
The Impact Of The Closure On Local Farmers And Cheese Lovers
The closure of the small dairy in Muskegon, Michigan, producing Saga blue cheeses will have a significant impact on local farmers and cheese lovers. The dairy has been a vital part of the local community for many years, and its closure will result in job losses for around 20 employees.
Local farmers who supplied milk to the dairy for the production of Saga blue cheese will also be affected. They will need to find alternative buyers for their milk, which may prove difficult given the current economic climate.
Cheese lovers who enjoy Saga blue cheese will now have to look elsewhere for their favorite cheese. While there are many other blue cheeses available on the market, Saga blue cheese had a unique flavor and texture that will be missed by many.
However, it’s important to note that Arla Foods’ decision to discontinue the production of Saga blue cheese is part of a larger strategy to focus on its premium specialty cheeses under the Castello brand in the US. This means that cheese lovers can still enjoy high-quality, artisanal cheeses from Arla Foods.
Alternative Blue Cheese Options To Try
If you’re a fan of blue cheese and are looking for alternatives to Saga blue cheese, there are plenty of options to try. Here are some alternative blue cheese options that you can find in grocery stores or supermarkets:
1. Gorgonzola: This Italian blue cheese is similar in taste and texture to Saga blue cheese. It has a tangy and creamy flavor that pairs well with salads, pasta dishes, and pizzas.
2. Roquefort: This French blue cheese is made from sheep’s milk and has a strong and salty flavor. It’s a great option for those who love the intense flavor of blue cheese.
3. Maytag: This American blue cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a milder flavor than Roquefort or Gorgonzola. It’s a good option for those who want to try blue cheese but don’t want an overpowering taste.
4. Stilton: This English blue cheese has a crumbly texture and a strong, tangy flavor. It’s often used in dressings and sauces, but can also be enjoyed on its own.
5. Danablu: This Danish blue cheese is similar to Roquefort but has a creamier texture and a milder flavor. It’s a good option for those who want to try something new but don’t want a strong taste.
6. Bleu d’Auvergne: This French blue cheese has a creamy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. It’s often used in salads and sandwiches.
7. Monte Enebro: This Spanish blue cheese is made from goat’s milk and has a tangy, slightly sweet flavor. It’s a good option for those who prefer goat cheese over cow or sheep milk cheeses.
8. Feta: While not technically a blue cheese, feta has a tangy flavor that can be substituted for blue cheese in many recipes. It’s often used in salads, pasta dishes, and dips.
9. Goat Cheese: Another non-blue cheese option, goat cheese has a mild and slightly tangy flavor that can be used as a substitute for blue cheese in dressings, dips, and on pizza.
10. Cheddar Cheese: Aged cheddar can be substituted for blue cheese in some recipes, but it will have a different flavor profile than traditional blue cheeses.
Exploring Other Specialty Cheeses To Satisfy Your Cravings
If you’re a fan of blue cheese, fear not! There are plenty of other specialty cheeses out there to satisfy your cravings. One such cheese that may pique your interest is aged Gouda. With its bold, sharp, and tangy flavor with grassy notes and hints of mushroom, aged Gouda offers an array of textures and in-mouth feels from buttery to crumbly.
If you’re new to the world of blue cheeses and find them too strong for your taste, there are milder options available. For example, Saga Blue Brie is a cross between blue cheese and brie, offering the creaminess and white-mould rind of classic brie with gentle blue veins. It’s a great transition cheese for those who have yet to learn to appreciate the stronger blue cheeses.
Another option is the Saga family of cheeses produced by Arla Foods of Denmark. This includes Classic Blue Brie, Crumbled Blue, Crumbled Blue with Cranberry, Danish Style Blue, Camembert, and Creamy Brie. Saga Blue cheese pairs nicely with white Riesling wines or hearty red wines.
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider trying Gorgonzola or Roquefort. These are notorious for their bold flavor and can be an acquired taste for a discriminating palate. However, there are wonderful array of milder blues that can ease you into the wonderful nuances and layers that come with exploring this style of cheese.