Wyke Farms has been in the cheddar cheesemaking business since 1861. The Clothier family company kept their award-winning, 160-year-old recipe and spent nearly 15 years on bioengineering to become the UK’s first 100% self-sufficient in green energy. As their next step in sustainability, they launched their Ivy’s Reserve Vintage Somerset Cheddar, the first carbon-neutral cheese in the world.
Named after Grandma Ivy, whose recipe is still used 100 years later, the Ivy’s Reserve Cheddar has a nutty taste with bits of salt for a crunchy bite. Aged for up to 18 months under wood, the cheddar tastes more subtle than the sharp orange-y cheddars you might be used to, with a smooth butteriness in the mouth. Additionally, it is perfect melted or on your favorite charcuterie paired with nuts and dried fruits.
Inhabitat spoke with third-generation family member Rich Clothier, managing director at Wyke Farms and Ivy Clothier’s grandson, on how the company is innovating the cheesemaking process to greener pastures.
Inhabitat: What started the journey to launch a carbon-neutral cheese?
Clothier: At Wyke Farms, our grandmother Ivy Clothier used to say, “If you look after nature, then nature will look after you.” Ivy had the deepest respect for nature and a love of the Somerset countryside, valuing the resources it gave, and she never wasted anything. In return, the landscape provided food, a livelihood and a home, and these values remain at the heart of the business today. We believe that good cheddar needn’t cost the earth, and therefore, we tread lightly on the land, always ensuring that we give back more than we take. Launching Ivy’s Reserve as the world’s first carbon-neutral cheddar was the natural next step in our sustainability journey.
Inhabitat: How does going carbon neutral affect the process of cheesemaking?
Our cheese: When making Ivy’s Reserve, we minimize waste and packaging, recover heat, filter and reuse our wastewater and reduce carbon emissions. In all we do, our aim is to achieve net-zero production.
Our farm: We’ve reduced emissions on our own and our suppliers’ farms with a committed sustainability plan and incentive program. This covers animal feed, land management and energy use, as well as regenerative farming and protection of the soil. It encourages biodiversity, improves soil quality and helps to reduce emissions, bringing the CO2 output per liter of milk to 20% under the national average.
Green energy: We use 100% green energy, with electricity and gas sourced from solar power and from biogas generated from farm and dairy waste. Our anaerobic digester saves 20 million kilos of CO2 every year, as well as providing us with rich natural fertilizer that we can return to the earth.
Working with nature: We do all we can to protect and nurture the countryside around the River Brue, which runs through our valley. We leave uncultivated areas to wildflowers and other species, as well as planting trees and putting up bird boxes and insect hotels.
The Carbon Trust: With the Carbon Trust, we have conducted cradle-to-grave footprinting analysis to certify Ivy’s Reserve Cheddar as carbon neutral in accordance with the PAS2060 standard. PAS 2060 is an internationally recognized specification for carbon neutrality and builds on the existing PAS 2050 environmental standard. It sets out requirements for the quantification, reduction and offsetting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for products.
Inhabitat: Is the company hoping to launch other types of products that are carbon neutral?
Clothier: Yes, we are working to bring to the market later in 2023 Ivy’s Reserve Salted Farmhouse Butter as the world’s first carbon neutral butter. Our deliciously creamy farmhouse butter is still made to our grandmother Ivy’s special recipe. Its unique smoothness and clean finish come from the use of whey cream, created as part of the cheesemaking process, and the care with which it’s churned. With the addition of just the right amount of salt, it’s perfect for toast but able to add something special to baking and cooking too.
Inhabitat: What have been some challenges for going toward 100% green?
Clothier: Currently, the packaging for Ivy’s Reserve cannot be recycled. We are working to find a 100% recyclable packaging solution as quickly as possible. It’s challenging in cheese as it needs a barrier film. Without barrier film, then cheese spoilage and food waste increases, which can be equally bad or even worse for the environment, so we are unable to take any risks. […] We have trialed multiple materials for cheese produced by several different manufacturers, and whilst we’ve yet to find a solution, we are doing all that we can to drive the innovation needed to allow people to continue to enjoy Somerset Cheddar in a more sustainable way.
Inhabitat: What are the goals for the future now that Wyke’s Farms has achieved UK’s first 100% self-sufficient in green energy?
Clothier: We will continue to develop more sustainable ways of working as technology allows, with a key focus on increased solar PV, work with our milk suppliers to measure and improve their carbon footprints and drive improvements across the business aligned to the Science Based Targets Incentive.
Images via Wyke Farms