If Milk is White, Why is Cheese Yellow?

Teri, a Fooducate community member asks

“After reading your latest post on cheese, I got to thinking. What about the stuff we can see. Like why is cheese yellow? Is it dye that is bad for you? I’d love to know.”

What you need to know:

Milk is not pure white. It actually contains a yellowish / orange pigment that comes from the grass that cows eat. You’ve probably heard of it – beta carotene, the precursor for vitamin A. It’s hard to notice the pigment because milk is mostly liquid. The pigment binds itself to the fat component of milk, not the liquid. The process of cheesemaking removes most of the liquid component from milk, leaving a higher concentration of the pigment and hence a yellow color.

That said, many cheeses do have added coloring, whether natural (Annatto) or artificial (yellow #5)

What to do at the supermarket:

When choosing your cheese, opt for a a product that did not have artificial colors added.

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  • http://twitter.com/billdback Bill Back

    “beat carotene”?  Wouldn’t that make it purple or red?  ;)  (Yeah, I know it’s a typo).

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      LOL, fixed. thanks Bill

  • Parkourguy

    Bill, I believe you are thinking of lycopene.  True, a carotene, but not the beta carotene referred to in this article.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002571916602 Aadi Lorraine

      He was making a joke, the original artificial i’m assuming had said beat carotene not beta carotene. Beats are red or purple, thus the red or purple cheese. Get the joke?

  • Lyn M

    I just found your blog today and I LOVE it! Thanks so much! I will be reading and linking back to some of your posts from my blog. http://www.escapefromobesity.blogspot.com

  • JM

    Who says cheese is yellow?  When make from goats milk it is white.  Sheep’s milk cheese is just a slight bit yellower than goat’s. 

  • Violina

    Why then goat/sheep cheese is white???

  • http://twitter.com/defnotmartha definitelynotmartha

    I think it’s pretty clear that all ORANGE cheese has some sort of colour added.  Obviously, cheese it not nearly so white as milk, but it should definitely be in the buttery-colour family, or it’s been tinted with something.

    I get so annoyed with orange cheddar. 

  • carol

    Milk from cows fed fresh grass will be creamy to yellowish in color. Natural colorants (e.g., flowers or seed pods, such as annatto) have been used for hundreds of years, originally a) to get a more uniform color in seasons when there is no fresh grass, and b) to make a cheese more distinctive. Think of saffron for coloring the rice in paella.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6Z4YRMZHA5GPKEJKYWL5OJSZHA Emm Snn

     You are forgetting food chemicals that are added to the cows diet that change the color of food. Also you can reverse obesity when you use a diabetes diet that heals the damage from food chemicals
    see here http://spirithappy.org/wp/?p=1149

  • FrugalArugula

    If you’re buying yellow cheese, you’re doing it wrong. 

    That is all.

    • carol

      Even mimolette? http://www.fromages.com/cheese_library_detail.php?id_fromage=127
      If you are eating saffron-colored rice (e.g., in paella), is that wrong? Plenty of good, traditional cheeses are yellow or orange; some naturally that way, and some due to natural plant colors/extracts. Can’t judge a food by its color.

    • http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/ Ann

      So, you read the article, which states that there is yellow in milk, it’s how the milk comes, and you say it’s wrong? What do you suggest, bleaching cheese?

      • xy

        Letting it mature.

  • FrugalArugula

    If you’re buying yellow cheese, you’re doing it wrong. 

    That is all.

  • Dixie

    Heads up, reality check. Most cows do not eat grass. They are fed corn. Now what?

    • carol

      Generally, they eat about half grass/forage and half grains. Depends on the location/climate, etc.  http://www.causematters.com/agriculture/cow-dietitian-corn-grass/

    • Sjpass849

      our home is surrounded by hundreds of heads of beef cattle.we watch them from our living room windows.They are grass fed.We also can hear and see when the red truck comes to shoot them in the head for a customer to purchase their side of beef.what we see out of our windows is hundreds of acres of what they eat.

      • Monica

        I’m glad I’m not the only one here that enjoys watching the neighbor’s cows from the window. Those are some happy cows. They have acres of land and love drinking water from the pond.

  • Yellowcheese

    CHEESE IS YELLOW NOT ORANGE!!!!
    ……
    that is all (;

  • toby

    U are a dum ass its yellow cause its fermented for years its neally white in the beginning i used to work in a cheese factory and quite cause its so disgisting i have never had any dairy of any kind its bad for u and yes cheese is extreamly bad very high in fats and unless u want heart deseise or a heart bypass by 50 it would be a good idea to stop having it i have never lacked in and iron or and vitimans of any kind thats is a big reason why 80 % of people are over weight in australia and there take away crap