Fine and specialty cheeses have become major products in the portfolio of Agropur, a cooperative owned by 3,400 milk producers that transforms more than a quarter of the milk produced in Canada. Agropur aims to tap the growing demand for fine cheeses by developing a premium brand of washed rind cheese. Cheese production is a very complex process and nonoptimal ripening can lead to reduced shelf life, returns and delays.
Agropur will partner with Dr. Steve Labrie, a leading academic from Université Laval, whose genomics-based techniques to monitor microbiota composition will have a direct impact in the production of high quality cheeses.
This project will use next generation sequencing to monitor the ripening process of premium washed rind cheeses. It will also lead to the development of a new genetic tool that will allow Agropur to improve production control, limit losses and produce high quality cheese with increased shelf life and reduced returns. In addition, the project will lead to the creation of a set of standardized genomic profiles that will be unprecedented in the cheesemaking industry and allow for the development of optimal cheese culture. The genomic tools will become integral to Agropur’s cheese production process and enable Agropur to identify imbalances in cheese microbiota (microorganisms) that interfere with cheese ripening.
Overall, this project will improve understanding of the complex cheesemaking process and guide the development of new cheeses. The use of genomics will help Agropur bring more competitive products to market and provide members of the cooperative with increased revenues.