Ever wondered why some cheese (particularly cheddar) is sometimes, white, yellow or even orange? There are a variety of different factors that can affect this, including man-made products. In this article, we look at whether orange cheese has dye in it.
Does Orange Chees have Dye in it?
Orange cheese does have dye in it. Naturally, cheese is white/ buttery yellow, of course, depending on the milk used. Goats milk cheese tends to be very white, whereas cows milk cheese tends to be more yellow. Although naturally, cheese may have a tint in colour, if the cheese is excessively orange, this is due to human intervention.
Why does Cheese Vary in Colour?
The flavour and colour of cheese come from the quality of the milk produced by the animal, in turn, the milk is affected by what the animal eats. Also, grass naturally contains Beta-Carotene. Bright coloured fruits and vegetables, for example, carrots, contain the beta carotene pigment.
During summer, the cow will eat rich, sweet grass that is high in beta-carotene. As a result, the cheese produced with this milk will be sweet, buttery, grassy and darker in colour.
However, during the winter, a cows diet will mainly consist of hay, containing lower levels of beta-carotene, and therefore creating a milder flavoured cheese, which is paler in colour.
Why was Cheese Dyed in the First Place?
Take the example of cheddar. Cheddar was invented in the UK and varied in colour depending on the season and what the cows were eating. Traditionally, very orange cheese was highly regarded, as it appeared to be more authentic and having a higher fat content, which therefore made it more profitable. In comparison to winter cheddar, that was paler and not as rich in flavour.
Cheesemakers then began to realise they could fake and enhance this colouring by using natural products to make the cheese appear more orange. Research suggests they may have used carrots (as we know, carrots contain high levels of beta carotene which enhance their colour).
Nowadays, mass-produced cheese (particularly cheddar) uses a natural vegetable dye to turn the cheese orange. Achiote tree seeds create the annatto dye used to colour cheese today.
This creates the bright orange cheese we see on the supermarket shelves today.
What about Shropshire Blue Cheese?
Sometimes, cheese such as Shropshire Blue gets its colour from adding turmeric during the cheese-making process. Not only does this give it a bright yellow colour, but it also adds a light spice to the flavour.