After a vegan blue cheese won the Good Food Award, panicked dairy cheese makers forced the foundation to disqualify it

Something stinks in the world of cheese, but this time it's not the product – it's the sour grapes emanating from the dairy industry as they try in vain to curdle the rise of a plant-based upstart that's threatening to spoil their future.

In a story that has enough twists and turns and heroes and villains to be a Netflix documentary, The Washington Post reports on scandal at the prestigious Good Food Awards. A plant-based blue cheese was selected as a finalist, shocking high-quality artisanal dairy-based cheesemakers who felt it didn't belong in the competition. 

After initially being named a finalist, Climax Blue cheese was later disqualified by the Good Food Foundation, reportedly due to issues around one of the ingredients (kokum butter) not having GRAS certification. But Climax CEO Oliver Zahn accused the foundation of caving to pressure from the dairy cheese industry and changing the rules after the fact to disqualify his product. The foundation denies this, saying it was due to a complaint from someone in the community.

The traditional cheesemaking company is freaking out about Climax Blue, especially because the vegan cheese was so delicious that it had slated to win the overall competition before the Good Food Foundation caved to pressure.

Mateo Kehler, co-owner of the Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont told The Post, "One could make the argument that this is like a fraudulent cheese. 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."

But Climax CEO Zahn argues that Climax Blue is cheese:

To Zahn, the method he's using isn't all that different from the one used for centuries. When it comes down to it, he notes, plants fuel the animals that produce milk — and so in concocting a milk made out of plants, Zahn says he's just cutting out the middleman (or middle-bovine). In his analysis of traditional cheesemaking, a cow is essentially a processing machine — and not a very efficient one at that.

"There's a lot of energy being used to turn something from one thing to another, and in the case of a cow, 90 percent of the inputs go to just processing," he says. "There is no factory you could potentially devise that would come with that much processing."

In the end, the dairy industry's heavy-handed attempts to keep Climax Blue from the spotlight have only served to amplify its rise, proving the old adage that the more you try to censor or suppress something, the more attention you inadvertently bring to it. Just like the Barbra Streisand effect, the panicked reaction of the traditional cheesemakers has guaranteed Climax Blue far more publicity and notoriety than it ever would have received by simply winning the Good Food Award outright.