Why is goat cheese white and cow cheese yellow?

By: Henri Willig
19 jun 2024
± 3 minuten

One of the most frequently asked questions in the cheese community is: Why is goat cheese white and cow cheese yellow? In this article, we explore, explain the science behind the colour differences and what this says about the cheeses' characteristic properties.

What factors determine the colour of cheese?

The colour of cheese is influenced by several factors. For instance, the composition of the milk plays an important role. The amount of fat and protein in the milk influences the final colour of the cheese. Furthermore, added ingredients, such as herbs, dyes or spices, can change the colour of the cheese. The fermentation process during cheese maturation also affects the colour. This is because this process affects the chemical reactions inside the cheese. Finally, maturation time can play a role: the longer the cheese matures, the more intense the colour can become. In short, a combination of milk composition, added ingredients, fermentation and maturation ultimately determines the colour of cheese.

The differences between goat's cheese and cow's cheese

The colour of cheese is thus influenced by several factors, of which the diet of the milk-producing animals plays an important role. Although goat cheese and cow cheese are both derived from milk, there are major differences between them, including taste. Indeed, goat cheese is known for its characteristic tangy and often slightly acidic taste, while cow cheese is generally milder and creamier. These taste differences are partly caused by the composition of the milk and the animals' diet. There are also differences in terms of texture . Goat cheese is often more grainy and dry while cow cheese is softer and more spreadable. In addition, the difference in colour is striking: goat's cheese is naturally white, while cow's cheese has a yellow hue. 

A much-discussed question is therefore: why is cheese yellow? In cow cheese, the yellow colour comes mainly from the beta-carotene in the grass the cows eat. This pigment is absorbed by the cows and excreted in the milk, leading to a natural yellow colour of the cheese. 

Goats do not absorb this pigment from their diet, which is why goat cheese remains white. 

Tips for consistent colour maintenance in cheese production

So maintaining a consistent colour within cheese production is also important to maintain the quality and recognisability of cheeses. To achieve this, a number of measures are required. Firstly, it is important to keep the diet of milk-producing animals consistent, as this directly affects the colour of the cheese. In addition, cheese makers may choose to add natural or artificial colourings to the milk or cheese mixture to achieve and maintain a consistent colour. Thus, following recipes and procedures precisely and carefully controlling factors such as temperature and maturation time helps maintain a consistent colour. Finally, regular quality control and adjusting production methods is important to recognise and correct any deviations in colour in time, ensuring your favourite cheese always has the same recognisable colour.

Henri Willig cow's cheese and goat's cheese

Now that you have learned more about the factors that determine the colour of your favourite cheeses and why goat cheese and cow's cheese have different colours, you can now enjoy the tastiest goat and cow's cheese yourself. In fact, Henri Willig was one of the first to discover that Gouda cheese can also be made from goat's milk. Today, it is impossible to imagine our range without Gouda goat's cheese. Henri Willig's cow's cheese has an extensive selection of delectable cheeses. So enjoy our unique cheeses and order cheese online through our web shop!

Frequently asked questions

How might seasonal changes in diet affect the colour of cow cheese?

This is due to variations in the animals' diet, such as consuming fresh grass in spring and summer, which can lead to a more intense yellow colour in cow cheese.

What is the effect of UV light on the colour of cheese?

UV light can affect the colour of cheese by promoting oxidation of fats and proteins. This can lead to discolouration of the cheese, such as the appearance of dark spots or a change in the hue of the colour. In addition, exposure to UV light can affect the taste and texture of the cheese, possibly making it bitter or giving it an undesirable flavour.

Are there certain colour changes that occur during the ageing process of cheese?

Yes, during the ageing process of cheese, various colour changes can occur such as darkening of the outside of the cheese, the formation of crystals and the appearance of dark veins or spots in the cheese.

What are some of the most common misconceptions or myths about the colour of cheese and what is the truth behind them?

Some common misconceptions are that colour is an indicator of ripeness or flavour, or that colourings are always added to influence colour. The truth is that the colour of cheese is mainly determined by factors such as the composition of the milk, the animals' diet and the ripening process.

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