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Jun 26, 2007 07:23 AM

The Price of Cheese

I just paid $5.49 for 12 oz of cotija cheese, which would make it $7.32 a pound. Wow! I know cheese prices have been going up, but $7+ for a pound of bulk cheese, and not very good cheese at that, seems more than a bit excessive. Talk about sticker shock.

My purchase was made at a full-service, independent grocery store in San Diego, CA. What are cheese prices like in your neck of the woods.

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  1. I live in Albany, NY. I think that it may have been a bit pricey for your cheese, but nothing too bad, especially if it were from an independent grocer.
    We have a great cheese selection at our local co-op with pre-cut pieces of cheese. These cheeses run from about $3+ per lb to $12 per lb. However, I don't mind buying them, since they're very flavorful and almost never sell 1# blocks of cheese, which means I can get a taste of this and that. They have a fresh mozz section as well.
    The local supermarkets basic cheddars, colby, provolone and stuff for around $3-6 per lb.

    3 Replies
    1. re: yumcha

      The decreasing value of the dollar and the rise in fuel oil prices have both contributed to the rise in cheese prices. It is not unusual to spend $13-18 on imported cheese.

      1. re: pitterpatter

        Ha! I wish I only spent $13-18 (a pound) feeding my imported cheese habit. My faves are usually in the $20-$25 range, and some are even more (my favorite blue cheese is $36/lb., and it's not even imported!). That sounds like I lot, but then, I'm eating small amounts "straight" not melting a pound into mac and cheese.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Yes, Fourme d'Ambert with Sautures and certain handmade Roqueforts cost $36/lb. The price on Roquefort is due to export tax, going back to when Clinton was in office and placed a tarrif in response to the French not buying our hormonally laced beef. But there are good and very interesting cheeses to be found for less that this : Blue de Gex, Stilton, Blue d'Avernge (probably the cheapest and not bad) and Dolce Gorgonozla are all great, and much less expensive. Domestic cheeses often cost more as our labor costs and agricultural prices exceed France, Italy and Britain. All cheese suppliers simply double their wholesale prices -- no 10x gouging going on there.

    2. St Andre (triple cream) $8.39 / #
      Comte $9.79 / #
      St Nectaire $ 7.49 / #
      At a well known specialty store in the strip district of Pittsburgh. I don't know enough about it to know if these are great cheeses or what. I wanted something from France and I liked these. The store is the kind of place where they know what I'm talkin' about even when I don't. And you get individualized service and samples. "How big a piece of this do you want, Dear Heart?"

      1. From what I've read it is corn that is driving the rise in food prices. More corn is going into the production of ethanol for gasoline and less for human food and animal feed. Higher prices for animal feed would make for higher prices for animal/dairy products.
        The real answer is probably a combination of a lot of market factors, such as corn, high gas prices, labor and processing costs, etc.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Pampatz

          I think that those are all true. I suspect you may have overlooked something else. When there are artisanal cheeses selling for lobster& cavair prices that has to factor in the pricing of bulk cheese too. Afterall if somebody is selling milk to Kraft to make singles and they can get 10x that for artisanal cheese it has to cause somebody to rethink things...

          1. re: renov8r

            I'm guessing it's more profitable to sell to Kraft. After all, it takes many pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese, and then there's labor, the equipment, the expense of storing and aging cheese, etc.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I did not mean to suggest that farmer X can sell milk to Kraft for some price and just turn right around and get 10x that selling to artisanal cheese maker Z, but that the prices that are commanded for fine cheeses are probably influencing some dairy farmers choices. As in "I could have abig herd and all the equipment to milk them in a factory style operation OR I could have a small organic herd, make cheese in the artisinal fashion and have a different impact". I think that IS a legitimate result of the success of organic farming/slow food/artisanal producers. And it will make regualr cheese more expensive too...

            2. re: renov8r

              I'd like to believe that cheese artisans are buying their milk from a different supplier than the dairies that sell to Kraft. After all, what's the point of putting lots of time and effort in to making a great cheese, when the milk you're working with tastes like rotten mold?

              1. re: renov8r

                Milk prices are regulated and are allowed to "float" only every 2 months. The objective isn't the milk or the milk solids but to remove excess butter fat from the market. Dairy cows also don't produce the same volume of milk all the time, nor is it of the same quality all the time. Sesaonal variations in prices and production are normal, but the jumps we've seen in the last few months are not normal. Dairy farmers may be reaping some profits right now, but they're also paying off some big debts incurred over the past few lean years.

                Everyone's jumping on the ethanol band wagon. Another factor I've not seen mentioned too much is the loss of milk products, mostly in the form of dried milk and solids, from Australia and New Zealand. The dried milk and solids were used to augment the fluid dairy shortfalls, with that now off the market manufacturers are scrambling to replace it with fluid milk. Additionally, the brutally harsh winter had an affect on beef cattle in the plains states and dairy cattle that were at the end of their milk producting life have been sent to slaughter to help meet the demand for beef.

                Agriculture is an integrated system, proving once again that you can't really fool Mother Nature. Cheese prices for regular old cheese are going up and the end is not in sight.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I'm too tired to reseach this fully right now, but all cheese prices in the US are set in Chicago at some kind of stock market for cheese (that's how I imagine it, I know there's an official name): they raise and lower the price by so many cents at a time, by the block and by the barrel, and announce it in advance. Last week I think everything went up around 15

                  OK so I woke up for a minute, here's more info

              2. re: Pampatz

                Corn prices do impact the price of bulk milk powder and Kraft cheese, but great cheese comes from animals fed a diverse diet, including lots of forage and very little actual corn. Of course, in the case of no-name bulk cojita, corn may be a factor.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  Mmmmm.... cheese. Worth every inflated penny. :)

              3. With milk prices about to zoom past $3/gallon, $7/ lb. for your cotija and our quesadilla and Oaxaca will be a new baseline for bulk mexican cheeses. $8-9 will get you the flavors of havarti, gouda, and Jarlsberg. Soft ripened will settle in the $9-13 range. Unpasteurized ripened, $18-22 (Epoisses, St. Marcellin and equivalent). Ruth must have a favorite blue that eclipses Maytag, which is about $25. The bargain is Cabot cheddar at $4-5. Grafton 6 year is $16, but stops me in my tracks.

                Ruth, what is your $36 ambrosia?

                13 Replies
                1. re: Veggo

                  Veggo, the prices of the cheeses you mentioned are all about twice as much here in Colombia. Milk costs about $4.00/gallon.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Rogue River Blue -- wrapped in Syrah and Merlot grape leaves previously macerated in Clear Creek pear brandy. Simply amazing (and hard to get, as it's seasonal and limited production -- they should be releasing this year's batch in a few weeks).


                    I notice the site says "to place your order for the 2008 release ...." Looks like they're sold out on pre-orders for this year. Fortunately, my local cheesemonger is good about ordering it (and telling me when it comes in).

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Ruth, this cheese mouse just blew the moths out of mouse wallet and ordered a half wheel of the Crater Lake Blue, while I wait for next year's Rogue River. Thanks for the info! (Crater Lake is priced like Maytag -$65/ 2.5 lbs)

                      1. re: Veggo

                        2.5 pounds! Hope you like it! I can't vouch for any of their blues except the Rogue River, but they do have a good reputation.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Not that I'm swimming in money... but I don't even look at the price of cheese when I buy it. Granted I shop most of the time at a place called Fiesta, which has great variety at awesome prices. But, my point is, cheese is as necessary in my life as gas is in my gas tank.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Ruth, with apologies to Will Rogers, I never met a cheese I didn't like. But Tony Soprano may have disliked a few ...

                          2. re: Veggo

                            How in the world are you going to keep 2.5 pounds good for a year??

                            1. re: yayadave

                              I will freeze one pound. The remainder, on blue-cheese burgers, Cobb salads, crackers, deviled eggs, baked figs with honey, and with a nice porto and cigar, will last about 2 months. The frozen will then take me through September, at which time I will grovel shamelessly for the fall issue of '07 Rogue River to which I have no entitlement at all. A year? I'm still optimistic about THIS year!

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Where do you live? You might have better luck getting some from a local cheesemonger. It's also possible that some online specialty retailers might have it. A quick google search shows that Artisenal has it.

                              2. re: yayadave

                                y dave--I keep good cheeses in the ref for years, Can't afford to throw them out. They age well. I'm waiting to finish some Pecorino Reggiano from the Pleistocene from Rome so I can get started on the new 1/2 kg that my friend sent me from Italy some three-four months ago.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  But they don't age equally - not long ago I broke out a crock of St. Marcellin with high expectations of the usual creamy smooth goodness and it looked perfect but it tasted like an underripe crabapple. YYeeeeccchhh. I should have kept it frozen. As Sam indicates, some last great lengths with refrigeration (and no touching), others require more care, and others simply need to be eaten soon.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Obviously, my cactus chewing donkey. Soft cheeses have to be eaten today.

                                    But for other cheeses like our local "mozarella," I leave them in waxed paper in the self-defrosting ref, allowing them to go from soft and bland to a beautiful hard, cured cheese in a couple of weeks, Such ref cured cheeses will then last for decades--getting harder and harder until you need a wood rasp to top your dish--but so worth it!!

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              The Rogue River Blue was one of the best cheeses I've ever tasted anywhere in all my travels. I believe it won the award for Best Blue Cheese in the World two years ago. Not much of it around however. The two men who run Rogue River Creamery have done an excellent job.

                          3. Talked to a scholarly cheesemonger in Northern California with a wide understanding of the stores and markets in this area, and he says that that gas/transportation add $5 a pound to the price of high-end cheeses.