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Cheesemaking monks’ prayers answered as online supporters clear stock

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These monks are cheese wheeling and dealing.

A ancient monastery of cheesemaking French monks left with nearly 3 tons of overstock because of COVID-19 lockdowns cleared its cupboards with some modern help.

The Cîteaux Abbey, just south of Dijon in the heart of Burgundy, France, normally sells its raw-milk, semi-soft cheese wheels to restaurants and visitors to the monastery, which was founded in 1098. But with restaurants in France closed since October and tourism limited, the abbey’s 19 Trappist monks saw sales drop by half.

“We need to clear out our stock,” brother Jean-Claude, in charge of marketing at the monastery, told The Guardian. The abbey had 4,000 cheese wheels, totaling about 2.8 tons, and it needs to unload some of that.

“We tried explaining to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk, but they don’t seem to have understood.”

The monks did what countless other businesses resorted to during the pandemic: sell online. The abbey worked with Divine Box, a French e-commerce site that sells products like wine, beer, coffee and tea made in monasteries in France and other countries, to try to offload some of the award-winning cheese.

The site’s home page features a photo of a monk in a field of cows with the label, “Operation Fromage,” or “Operation Cheese.” They were trying to sell at least a ton of the cheese by Tuesday, but by Saturday, the site announced that more than 2 tons sold in just 24 hours.

“Sale is over, there is no cheese left!”

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