How the holes in Swiss cheese got there

Here’s the scientific discovery of the week:  how the holes in Swiss cheese got there.

Despite what you may have been told as a child, they are not caused by mice nibbling away inside cheese wheels.

Experts from Agroscope, a state centre for agricultural research, said the phenomenon – which marks famous Swiss cheeses such as Emmental and Appenzell – was caused by tiny bits of hay present in the milk and not bacteria as previously thought.

They found that the mystery holes in such cheeses became smaller or disappeared when milk used for cheese-making was extracted using modern methods.

“It’s the disappearance of the traditional bucket” used during milking that caused the difference, said Agroscope spokesman Regis Nyffeler, adding that bits of hay fell into it and then eventually caused the holes.

There’s more at the link.

I can already see someone trying to use this research to sell ‘organic Swiss cheese’.  How will buyers know it’s organic?  Because compared to factory Swiss cheese, it’ll be ‘hole-ier than thou’!



  1. Want organic?

    If you're a grocer…

    Step 1. Double the price

    Step 2. Make a sign that says "Organic", preferably using green letters, and maybe some leaves for background.

    Step 3. Add "locally grown" and charge a further 15 %.


    You have now more than doubled your profits and satisfied the morals of every self-respecting yuppie who arrives by Prius.

  2. According to Frank James, the best organic farmers in the nation only realize 75% output, at most, of what agri-business does for the same type crop, in the same local area. Adjacent fields, in fact. That would be the Amish, IIRC, and the Mennonites, probably.

    I miss his blogging about farming, hog hunting, and guns. Haven't heard any updates on his recovery, for some time.

  3. A lot of local farmers around here make cheese. Several make a lovely swiss … with only a few very small voids. Now I can act smart and tell them why!

  4. These researchers must be smoking something? How on earth is the hay in Switzerland so sterile it doesn't introduce one of the millions of bad bacteria to the milk. And why is it on the Swiss don't practice common milking sanitation procedures like cleaning off the teats and hindquarters to reduce the risk of contamination. And I have trouble seeing how tiny bits of hay always leave perfect spherical wholes like a gas bubble.

    Several years ago, I perused a book from 1909 on setting up a creamery. The bad bacteria effects on milk are disgusting. But even then the Europeans were using culturing of the cream, which is just letting the good bacteria work, eventually going to pasteurization then inoculating with the isolated specific bacteria rather than leaving it up to chance the good bacteria would prevail.

    Perhaps instead of bacteria creating CO2, it is some type of yeast that the traditional buckets contain? But rotted hay? And why would the rotted hay not leave some residue?

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