With one and a half decades of experience in cheese making, Cathy Lang knows her stuff when it comes to cheese and is excited to be involved in NZ Trade and Enterprise’s international “Made with Care” campaign.
Now more than ever, amid a global health pandemic, consumers are looking for safe, nutritious and premium quality food and beverage that is ethically produced and tastes good too. New Zealand's combination of exceptional natural resources and experienced food producers, like Cathy, sets us apart and perfectly positions us to meet the needs of consumers.
“I’m passionate and proud to be associated with New Zealand food and in my case, cheese”, says Cathy. “With the food we make, it’s the quality, safety and the care we take when making it that’s increasingly recognised around the world. This campaign is about sharing our country’s food story with more and more people and places.”
Cathy’s the Lead Cheese Maker at Fonterra’s Bridge Street site in Eltham, Taranaki - the home of many of our world renowned and award-winning cheeses.
She says she’s fascinated by the cheese-making process which she describes as the perfect blend of science and creativity.
“From the interactions between the milk, starter cultures, moulds and enzymes to the magic of maturation.”
However, Cathy says regardless of the type of cheese she’s making, there’s one common factor – great cheese starts with great milk that comes from pasture-fed and well-looked after cows.
“We’re lucky in New Zealand to have the perfect climate and land for growing grass, helping farmers and their animals to produce some of the finest milk in the world.”
Cathy says the combination of cream, protein, essential vitamins and minerals in New Zealand milk make it an excellent source of nutrition and, while she works in cheese, the sheer versatility of milk is amazing.
“Our innovation and the different products our Co-op makes from our farmer owners’ milk is so impressive, from providing tailored nutrition to people of all ages, to making medicines and pharmaceutical products, not to mention the milk, yoghurt and butter you buy from your local supermarket or dairy.”
But Cathy’s love is cheese, and that journey began in 2005 after 20 years working in veterinary science labs.
“I wanted to make a change and to do something linked to dairy,” she says. “I’ve always had an interest in cheese, so I started researching how to make it. At that time there were no cheese-making courses in New Zealand, so I went to Australia for a farmhouse cheese-making course at Melbourne University.”
Cathy then built her own ‘make’ and maturation rooms at her and husband Peter’s property near Pirongia in the Waikato and, after getting NZ Food Safety Authority approval, her business, Cloudy Mountain Cheese, was born.
Using milk from her neighbour’s Jersey and Guernsey cows, Cathy made about 20 different varieties which she sold to restaurants and at farmers’ markets, winning several local and international awards over the seven years she ran the business.
But while she really loved her job, it was a seven-day-a-week operation, which made it difficult for her and Peter to indulge their passion for exploring the world and visit their two children, who live in Europe.
So, in 2014, Cathy joined Fonterra, starting out in the chemistry lab at Te Rapa before moving into the Cheese & Spreads New Product Development Team and now as the head cheese honcho at Eltham.
As well as trouble shooting, training colleagues, providing technical expertise and trialling and tweaking new products, she’s in charge of Fonterra’s entries in cheese competitions, making sure Fonterra’s cheeses are in top shape before being put to the test.
Cathy sees a bright future for New Zealand cheese - with our blue cheeses in particular proving to be a big hit in our growing export markets - and the impressive wins received in New Zealand and global cheese competitions this year gives the team at Eltham confidence to keep turning great milk into great cheese!