Delve into the intriguing world of cheddar cheese variations. You may think the answer lies in some complex coloring formula or secret ingredient but it is quite simple. There are various factors that differentiate white and orange cheddar, from taste and texture to cultural influences. Discover which variety suits your palate and culinary creations.
Shopping for cheese can be quite intimidating especially once you go beyond the familiar grocery store brands. That's when you realize that even good old cheddar comes in all sorts of colors and price points.
Of course, any of this has not stopped Americans from buying it. In a study from 2017, it was shown that Americans consumed around 37 pounds per capita of cheese.
There are a variety of debates about cheese in the US often and one question that often pops up is, what is the difference between white and orange cheddar?
The answer is quite simple. Orange cheddar has had color added, while white cheddar does not.
According to Josh Windsor of Murray's Cheese, the most common theory for why some cheddar is dyed at all is to help it achieve a consistent look throughout the year.
And that all circles back to the cows. When they graze on fresh grass, beta carotene—the red-orange pigment that occurs naturally in many plants—eventually ends up in the milk.
"The milk itself will still appear white due to the way the butterfat in milk scatters light," Windsor said. "However, if you make butter or cheese from that milk, the resulting product will appear more yellow or orange when the cow had been feeding on more green, leafy pasture."
You can expect milk from cows that haven't been chewing on greens—whether for seasonal reasons or otherwise— to lack beta-carotene. Cheddar made from this milk will therefore lack color.
Some folks also believe orange cheddar is more appetizing than white cheddar, so the added color also reflects preferences.