A Visit to Barber’s

Posted on 7 November 2023

Cheddar cheese is the world’s second most popular cheese … “Only second?” I hear you cry. Yes, the growing global appetite for pizza has just pushed mozzarella ahead but at COOK, Cheddar is King. And we couldn’t be prouder of where we get ours from.

On a recent autumnal morning I travelled to Somerset with Arta and Ashleigh to visit our suppliers, Barber’s. They are family owned and have been farming and cheesemaking since 1833, making them the oldest surviving Cheddar cheesemaker in the world. We believe these 190 years (!) of knowledge passed down from generation to generation shows up in the quality and deliciousness of their cheese.

Another thing that shows up is their perfect cheesemaking landscape that they are happy to call home. Their farms and production site are nestled in the beautiful, green, and rolling Mendip Hills. We were lucky enough to visit on a clear day and enjoy a fantastic view of the green mosaic of field upon field of lush grass. Despite it being late October, there were still plenty of cows out on pasture grazing away. Barber’s get all their milk from 151 farms which is no further than 30 miles away from their HQ, and in 2022 herds supplying them spent 222 days at grass. The average for the UK is between 100-180 days, these extra days are part of the reason the milk produced on these farms have a higher percentage of butter fat and protein, very much desirable traits when making cheese and butter.

Our host for the day, Michael, quite rightly took great pride in sharing that the Green House Gas emissions from Barber’s milk pool is around 20% less than the typical UK milk pool. This is achieved through a number of things, including using less purchased feeds as the cows spend more time on grass, less chemical fertiliser as fields are planted with herbal lays that fix nitrogen in the soil, and the type of the cattle they choose to have on their farms. It was also very evident that Barber’s believe there is more to a good environmental performance than just a low carbon footprint. Through their Nature Positive Scheme, they are working to understand the variety of habitats across their farms and the best approach to protecting and enhancing biodiversity. For example, they know that there are 1,557 miles of hedge rows running across their milk pool, the same distance from Somerset to the toe of Italy! Over 100 species of insects can be found in a typical 20m section of hedgerow, so there are certainly doing their bit to provide a home for nature and are even exploring where previously removed hedgerows can be replanted.

At COOK we are on a journey to ensure we are cooking with the highest quality, natural, and nature friendly ingredients. We know Barber’s are a business that share our vision and we look forward to what we can achieve together over the next 190 years…

Andy - Head of Sustainable Food at COOK

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