Colour and Cheese
There are three basics colours when it comes to cheese – white, yellow and orange and all the shades in between. (Yes, yes, we know there is also blue cheese but bear with us.)
Cheese that is very white is often made from goats milk. This has to do how goats, as well as buffalo and sheep/ewes, breakdown beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring compound found in grass and clover. Goats, buffalo and sheep/ewes break down beta-carotene into colourless Vitamin A.
Most cheeses range from pale yellow in colour through to deeper yellows and this is related in part to the feed on which the animal grazes. Remember what we said before about beta-carotene? Carotenoids are fat soluble, meaning the more milk fat in a cheese, the more yellow it is likely to be. Also, animals fed on less grass will have less carotenoids.
If a cheese can be described as orange, such as Mimolette and Shropshire Blue, it will have annatto extract added to it.
In times past, cheese was adulterated with colouring to convince the consumer that it was of higher quality than it actually was (more colour = better quality animal feed = better quality cheese). Food fraud is thankfully much rarer nowadays than it used to be.
By Amanda Kennedy