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The year robot-aided Camembert was considered to be parfait

By 1986, machine-made Camembert was no longer considered to be a second-rate option.

As of 1986, 'electronic ladles' were helping pump out thousands more servings of top-quality fromage

Robo-aided Camembert?

35 years ago
Duration 2:32
At the end of 1986, Don Murray reports on how robots are being used in the production of Camembert in France. 2:32

An artisanal cheesemaker could only ladle so much Grade-A Camembert in one day.

Only enough to manufacture 1,500 individual cheeses, in fact.

A machine, on the other hand, could help produce many more, which is how robots ended up becoming part of that process. 

But it took years for the robot-aided process to be refined enough to make an equivalent top-notch product.

'Stringent standards' must be met

A person could only ladle so much Camembert in a single day. (The National)

"These machines couldn't master the stringent standards set by the Academy of Cheese," the CBC's Don Murray explained, when recapping the history of machine-assisted Camembert production on The National in December of 1986.

"Five ladled layers of curdled milk, each layer ladled at 45-minute intervals."

Yet, by 1986, Murray said that "after two years of planning, practising and testing, electronic ladles are scooping out Grade-A Camembert, a world-first."

Murray said the machines, with the assistance of one human, could produce 10,000 units of that Grade-A Camembert in a single day — and the robot-aided variety had a sixth layer of indulgence that had been ladled into the final product.

'A bit better'?

By 1986, machine ladles were being used to produce top-quality Camembert in Isigny, France. (The National/CBC Archives)

To confirm the ascendance of this new Camembert product, Murray, who taste-tested some cheese while on camera, turned to Androuët — a renowned French cheese shop, where 400 premium varieties were available for purchase.

"And now the question: Is robot cheese as good as hand-ladled Camembert?" Murray said near the end of his report, before revealing the surprising answer.

"I would say that made-by-robot Camembert is a bit better," said Patrick Arena, a cheese master with Androuët.

Murray finished his report as a snippet of La Marseillaise played, telling viewers the French revolution still lived.

"Liberty, equality, Camembert," he said.

Cheese master Patrick Arena said Camembert made with the help of a machine was slightly better than the human-made product. (The National/CBC Archives)

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