12 Sep 16

Why are some cheddars orange?

Our Westminster Cheddar is a white cheddar made from the milk of our much-pampered cows! But a question you may have asked when at the grocery story is: why are some cheddars orange?  Here’s all you need to know:

cows cheddar

Cheese is made from milk, which is why our cheddar is known as ‘white’! What a cow eats determines the flavor of the cow’s milk, thus the flavor of the cheese; the natural color also changing according to the diet of the cow. Cows fed on pastures tend to produce milk higher in beta-carotene (the same pigment that gives carrots their lovely bright orange color!) – the more naturally-fed the cow, the darker the cheese, the more flavorsome the taste! This is why our Westminster Cheddar is more of a gorgeous yellow than a pale white; our cows are fed on our beautiful English pastures!

So the darkness of orange cheddar means it’s uber-natural? Not quite – all isn’t what it seems!

westminster cheddar

orange cheddar

Image: Daniel Oines, Flickr

Although it is true that the darker the tone of the cheese the better the diet of the cow, cheese will never naturally be as dark as the bright orange cheddar we see on store shelves, and the reason for this goes way back.

Over 200 years ago, when cheddar first became popular, cheesemakers took advantage of the reputation of darker, yellower cheese by dyeing cheese to make it a bold orange, claiming that the considerably darker color of the cheddar meant it was tastier.

Orange cheddar is cheese dyed with annatto seeds, originating from the annatto tree common in the tropical regions of South America. These seeds are grounded into red powder and used to color cheese; but do not fear, annatto, although a coloring, is completely natural, and in fact has been said to have health benefits including lowering blood pressure and reducing acid.

Now, orange cheddar is loved by cheese-lovers as a bright, attractive addition to a cheeseboard! Choose white cheddar for that authentic look, or orange for a bolder option!

Which do you prefer? Let us know on Facebook or tweet us on @westminsterched!

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