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Why is Cheese Orange?

Milk is white, not orange. So how was orange cheese born?

High butterfat naturally gives cheese a more creamy/yellow color, so when ancient shoppers wanted more nutritious cheese, they sought deeper hues. Sometimes, cheese makers would cheat by first skimming the cream to make butter (double the income). Left with only skim milk for their cheese, they added artificial colors from flower petals and other sources, tricking consumers into paying "heavyweight" prices for "skinny" cheese.

How and when this slight enhancement of color turned into the bright orange cheeses we see today is a mystery. It must have been like someone who uses too much spray tanner—they just don’t know when to stop (and they think it looks great).

Interestingly, orange cheeses have become staples of certain regions. For instance, east coast Americans like their Cheddar white and midwestern Americans like their Cheddar orange. In fact, some cheese makers will produce the same exact cheese in both orange and white for different markets. Today, cheeses can be colored naturally (using annatto seed) or artificially (using synthetic dyes).

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