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When it comes to cheese, most really never think twice about the differences in cheese, texture, taste, sharpness and other characteristics that make cheese, well… cheese. As long as there is cheese available and on your burger, shredded on your pasta, topped on your salad or wrapped in your taco, that is the main focus on the minds of most when thinking “cheese”. What most do not realize is that, aside from your general cheese, such as Swiss, American, Cheddar among others, as the list goes on seemingly indefinitely, there is an unrealized and undiscovered “world” of cheese. From the United States to Canada to all of Europe, there are cheeses that are made every day that most are completely unfamiliar with.
Entering this undiscovered world of cheese, we travel all the way to Serbia, the location of one of the most expensive cheeses on Earth. What makes it so expensive is that it can only be made in Serbia as the milk used to make this cheese does not come from cows, nor does it come from goats, but instead, to make this cheese, the milk comes from the rare Balkan Donkey. The name of this cheese is “Pule” (poo-lay) and commands the hefty price in the world. In 2012, Pule was sold in bulk at a price that was considered discounted at over $750 per pound. The price for Pule increases exponentially on the open market going for upwards of $1300 per pound.
Why a cheese costing a seemingly ridiculous amount of money? Well, the process of making Pule itself is where much of its price is argued. Contrary to the modern marvels that would allow machines to extract milk from cows and goats, the milk coming from Balkan Donkeys is extracted by hand, each day, three times per day. To make matters even more intricate and arguable for the price paid for this cheese is that when milking these donkeys, very little milk is given off per sitting of milking these donkeys. All told it takes over 15 donkeys to produce a gallon of milk each day, and it takes over 3 gallons of milk to produce 1 pound of Pule.
Pule has been very popular for a very long time, especially to those familiar with its existence. Rumor had it that tennis star, Novak Djokovic used all of his winnings from his tournament to purchase the entire county’s supply of Pule, only later to discover the rumor was just that, a rumor. The global supply of Pule, albeit, a small supply relatively speaking, comes from a herd of Balkan Donkeys housed in a special nature preserve in the city of Zasavica in Serbia. Workers at the preserve view the production of Pule as a means of promoting the Balkan Donkeys which are considered by all right, an endangered species.