A vegan cheese was selected to win an industry award. Then the industry found out.

A vegan cheese was selected to be a finalist in the Good Food Awards, and, it turns out, was going to win in its cheesey category. But when the business got wind of it, it was suddenly disqualified without explanation. The reasons ultimately squeezed from it were desperate: first, the presence of a banned ingredient that wasn't even present, on the basis of a rule they added to the rulebook after the finalists were announced, then a claim that all entries must be ready for retail—which, it turns out, the vegan stuff was.

When asked by The Washington Post about its reasoning, Good Foods Foundation executive director Sarah Weiner at first declined to say, but she said something similar had happened only three times in the awards' 14-year history. Someone — another entrant, perhaps, or someone else in the community — can alert the foundation that a contestant might not meet the requirements they attested to, which include such things as meeting animal-husbandry guidelines where applicable and offering employees fair wages and diversity training. Weiner also wouldn't say who tipped off the foundation about Climax.

The Post didn't have to go far to find people in the dairy business ready to get upset on the record about the very existence of vegan cheese.

"These are engineered products. And they're part of a financialized food system that's fueled by venture capital and disconnected from nature," says Mateo Kehler, co-owner of the family-run Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Kehler's cheese has previously won Good Food awards, and his bark-wrapped, bloomy-rind Harbison cheese is a finalist this year. "… "One could make the argument that this is like a fraudulent cheese," Kehler said. "As a cheesemaker, it's a fraud. It looks like a cheese. It might taste like a cheese. But it's not. It's not connected to our historical understanding of what cheeses are."

This is a regular outcome in trade awards: the organizers are given license to award on merit, the appearance of merit is key to the award's credibility, and the award's credibility is of considerable marketing benefit to the industry paying for it all. But eventually the organizers think the merit is a consideration in itself and do something fucking stupid like give a cheese award to a vegan cheese and have to be reminded who is paying for the show.

See also: blind tests of wine, a Penny Arcade comic about a negative game review, Hugo Awards in China, etc.