The miracle of the Mifroma cellar in Ursy

Ideal temperature, perfect humidity, impeccable ventilation: there's no shortage of superlatives to describe the Mifroma cheese cellars, located in the molasse quarry in the village of Ursy (FR). Take a guided tour of a place like no other.

01 Mar 2024
Around Le Gruyère AOP

"The human factor remains the added value of the process".

Edouard Pieraerts, Cheese Business Unit Manager at Mifroma

"The rock is as soft as butter, which is why we've been able to excavate the cellar over time", says Gérald Menoud, master cheesemaker and head of the Le Gruyère AOP process. He continues: "Thanks to the constant temperature and humidity levels, the cheese wheels lose very little weight, they don't dry out and their texture remains creamy", he explains. Since Mifroma was founded in 1964, tonnes of Le Gruyère AOP have been matured and processed as the cellar has expanded: "To date, 9,000 to 10,000 tonnes of cheese arrive here each year in the form of wheels, after maturing for 3 months in more than 30 different cheese dairies. They continue to mature here," adds Jean-Charles Michaud, master cheesemaker, responsible for Le Gruyère AOP at Mifroma and a member of the IPG committee.

Technology 4.0: Benefiting the product and those who take care of it

Quite deep, Mifroma is now aiming for greater heights. Up to 34 wheels weighing 35 kilos are stacked on top of each other in aisles 8.5 metres high and 100 metres long. New 200-metre-long aisles are due to open shortly. "We export 30% of our production to 35 countries, including the United States, which is a major buyer," explains Edouard Pieraerts, head of the Cheese Business Unit ("purchase and sales of cheese"). In the cellar, cutting-edge technology is used to pamper the cheeses: 2 robots are used to place and identify the wheels every week, while 9 others provide the usual care (brushing, salting, etc.). In other words, the ballet of forklift trucks moving pallets has given way to individual treatment of each wheel. It makes you wonder whether employees still have a place in such a den of technology. Gérald Menoud explains: "The jobs have been maintained at 100% and even upgraded: the increase in mechanisation means a different type of handling, less arduous, less repetitive and less dangerous but still just as important control and cleaning work".

People at the heart of the value chain

Since 2020, Mifroma has been the first cheese production site in Switzerland to achieve carbon neutrality. "The company generates less CO2 than it absorbs, thanks to hydroelectricity, biogas and a heat recovery system," explains Jean-Charles Michaud. With 100% renewable energy, cutting-edge technology, an ideal location and optimum control of processes, you might well wonder whether Mifroma's Le Gruyère AOP cheeses all taste the same. "That's far from being the case, because we work with small family-run businesses that supply us with cheeses that are distinctive, depending on the location and the know-how of the cheesemaker", says Edouard Pieraerts. He concludes: "The human factor remains the added value of the process".

Mifroma in figures:

  • Cellar: 20,000 m2
  • Humidity level: 90 - 92%
  • Temperature: 12° - 15° C
  • Capacity: 140,000 wheels of Le Gruyère AOP cheese
  • Around 270 employees (primarily concentrated in the pre-packaging area)

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