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Something Is Rotten in Roquefort

By Christina White

To a visitor with an untrained eye, Robert Glandières' 740 sheep look like--well, sheep. But they all belong to the Lacaune breed--raised nowhere but in this sparsely populated strip of southern France, and the only one whose milk is allowed in the production of Roquefort cheese. Farmers start milking their sheep by the last week of December. Until July, when their udders run dry for five months, each animal gives a liter of milk a day--enough to make a third of a round of the pungent product that is guarded by the "appellation d'origine contrôlée" (AOC). The milk from Glandières' sheep sells at almost four times the price of cows' milk--used in other blue cheeses--and the designation of origin guarantees a constant demand. "The AOC sets it apart," says Glandières, as his sheep bleat for their dinner.