Why Is Blue Cheese So Expensive?

Published Categorized as Food
Blue cheeseTina Witherspoon (via Unsplash)

Blue cheese is a moldy cheese variety made from cow’s, milk’s, or sheep’s cheese, and aged with cultures of the mold Penicillium. This gives blue cheese its distinct look, taste, and smell. It’s covered with green and blue mold, has a salty, sharp flavor, and a pungent aroma.

Though blue cheese can come in many shapes and forms, most kinds of blue cheese are aged for 1-6 months, have a fat content of 28-34% per 3.5 oz, and a relatively high level of moisture that promotes mold growth.

It’s also one of the most expensive cheese varieties carried by grocery stores. So expensive, that one of the top things home cooks ask about it online is why it costs so much in the first place.

How Expensive Is Blue Cheese?

Just how expensive is blue cheese, really?

To find out the answer, I went to Kroger’s online and looked at the prices ($/lb) of 10 kinds of blue cheese. Then, I compared the average price of blue cheese from my sample to the average retail price of American cheese and cheddar cheese in the U.S.

Here’s what I found.

On average, blue cheese costs $17.29/lb, compared to $3.91/lb for American cheese and $5.32/lb for cheddar cheese.

Blue cheese is 3.2 times more expensive than the average cheddar cheese and 4.4 times more expensive than the average American cheese sold at the grocery store.

Check out my research below.

Clearly, blue cheese costs a pretty penny. What makes it so expensive?

Why Blue Cheese Is So Expensive

Blue cheese is a family of moldy cheeses traditionally made in Italy (Gorgonzola cheese), France (Roquefort cheese), Germany (Cambozola cheese), and Great Britain (Stilton cheese).

The recipe for blue cheese is thought to have been discovered in the 7th century in the village of Roquefort in France. A local shepherd allegedly forgot his launch of bread and cheese inside a cave. At the time, electricity and refrigeration weren’t yet invented. Caves and cellars were natural storage environments for food. They were also humid enough for mold to thrive in.

When the local shepherd came back to the cave months later, he discovered that mold had grown on the cheese. Obviously, he must have been a man of sudden hunger or great culinary curiosity; he ate the cheese, discovered its qualities, then spread the word around about his new recipe.

Today, blue cheese is made all over the world—and a variety of techniques exist to accelerate its aging by stimulating the growth of blue mold. 

“The blue mold is added to the milk in powder form, then the young cheese is pierced to allow air to enter and the mold to turn blue,” says Juliet Harbutt, author of World Cheese Book. “Soft white cheeses must be injected with molds, as they are too creamy and dense for the mold to spread naturally.”

The best blue cheeses are typically made in Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, this makes the retail price is higher than locally-made cheeses since the cheese has been imported from overseas.

In Europe, many blue kinds of cheese, such as Cabrales, Danablu, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Blue Stilton, carry a Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) from the European Union, which means that they can only be made in particular regions and following strict recipes for their production. This further brings up their price before they reach the supermarket.

Is Blue Cheese Worth It?

No charcuterie board is complete without a good blue cheese. As long as you like the salty sharp taste and the pungent aroma, a slice of good blue cheese is worth the price on any day.

Look for blue cheese at the cheese counter in the grocery store. Blue cheese is also sold in the Italian, French, or German food sections at some stores like Trader Joe’s. Most Italian delis and markets carry imported Gorgonzola from Italy.

My favorite kinds of blue cheese include British Stilton cheese, French Roquefort cheese, Italian Gorgonzola, as well as German Cambonzola and Bavaria Blu. Danish Blue cheese, also known as Danablu, is also a really good choice.

Avoid buying crumbled blue cheese. Just like shredded cheese, it contains additives (that blocks of cheese don’t) to keep the crumbles from clumping together. I don’t recommend most blue cheese sauces either. Take a closer look at their ingredients list, and you’ll see that they often contain anything but blue cheese…

Is Blue Cheese Good for You?

According to WebMD, a 1-oz serving of blue cheese contains 150 mg of calcium, or 15% of the recommended daily intake (1,000 mg). Calcium is a nutrient essential to bone health.

Blue cheese is also a good source of dairy protein. A 1-oz serving of blue cheese contains 6 g of protein. Proteins are made of building blocks called “amino acids,” which your body uses to repair muscles, make hormones, and produce enzymes.

But don’t go wild on blue cheese. Like all dairy products, it’s best to consume it in moderation.
“Blue cheese, like many dairy products, has healthy vitamins and minerals (such as Vitamin B12 and calcium), but it’s also high in fat, salt, and cholesterol,” writes Aris Sizer for Livestrong. “If you’re a cheese lover, consume it in moderation to stay healthy.”

Conclusion

Blue cheese is moldy and expensive. So why would you even think of buying it? Because it has a distinct texture, aroma, and flavor that no other cheese variety can give you. If you like your cheese with a bit of mold (and why not lots of mold), blue cheese can be outright addictive.

Which kind of blue cheese is your favorite? Do you have any tips for shopping for blue cheese? Share your thoughts with the rest of this post’s readers by leaving a comment below.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.