Humboldt Fog is an award-winning soft-ripened goat milk cheese that is name-protected and only produced by Cypress Grove farms in Humboldt County, California. The cheese has a complex, acidic flavor, a creamy texture, and is known for the distinctive layer of vegetable ash through the center of the cheese and along the rind. While this small farm engages in some sustainable practices related to production, there is little evidence of sustainable practices related to the materials that comprise the finished product or fair labor practices.
Humboldt Fog is made simply from pasteurized cultured goat milk, salt, enzymes, and vegetable ash. But Cypress Grove gives no information about the sustainability of these ingredients, and dairy milk tends to be greenhouse gas-intensive. Vegetable ash may also be energy intensive because it requires the burning of vegetables to be produced, but it also provides a use for some vegetable scraps that might otherwise end up in the trash or compost. Humboldt Fog cheese is generally packaged in a sort-of laminated parchment paper with a sticker logo, or an entirely plastic wrapping for smaller pieces. There is also no information about the sustainability of this packaging, which appears to be entirely non-recyclable.
Cypress Grove gets all of its goat milk from dairy farms in Dows Prairie, CA, a short distance from its creamery in Arcata. These farms claim to have received at 100% score from a humane auditing team and display the American Humane seal on their website, but are not listed as a certified producer by American Humane. Goat farming currently makes up such a small percentage of all animal farming in the US that it is difficult to distinguish levels of greenhouse gas production compared to cows, for example. The Cypress Grove creamery currently exceeds California’s Green Building Standards Code, and maintains sustainable land practices that include mitigating the spread of invasive species and conserving several acres of natural area on the creamy property. Installation of new boiling and pasteurization equipment has recently cut energy use by 50-55%, but Cypress Grove does not disclose how energy intensive the cheese production process is in total or if it uses renewable energy sources.
Cypress Grove gives no information about how its signature Humboldt Fog cheese is made. Outside sources do give a better description of the steps required to make the cheese, which seems to be complicated, multi-step process. Cypress Grove also gives little information about its labor practices. The company does tout some employee benefits, but is unspecific about many of them, including medical insurance which is paid only “in-part”. A recent job listing includes a maximum salary of $19.00 per hour, which is only a few dollars above California minimum wage.