News & views | Should artisanal cheese cost more than fillet steak?

News & views

Should artisanal cheese cost more than fillet steak?

Yesterday I visited my local deli* which had - as it often does - a visiting producer handing out samples. In this case it was a Shropshire producer called Moydens which makes a delicious gooey blue called Wrekin Blue.

I like to support small producers and loved the cheese so bought it without checking the price. When I got back I spotted on my receipt that it cost £34.95 a kilo.

OK, I only bought a small piece - for £3.98 - but £34.95! That’s as much, if not more than fillet steak!

As someone with a serious cheese habit I’m aware that cheese is expensive. A good cheeseboard can easily top £30. I also know cheese is expensive to produce and that in the case of European cheeses has to travel a long way under temperature-controlled conditions but this cheese hadn’t come that far.

Delis are under pressure from supermarkets so have to focus on more expensive handmade products and need knowledgeable staff to sell them but still .... The estimable Fine Cheese Company only charges £24.95 a kilo for Colston Bassett Stilton (which admittedly isn’t unpasteurised but an excellent cheese).

I checked the price of Wrekin Blue online, You can find it for £5.50 for 200g at the Liverpool Cheese Company (quick calculation - that’s £27.50 a kg) and even less at the Green Fields Farm Shop which sells it at £21.90. (Yes, I know they don’t have the overheads of a city centre shop. They also sound as if they’re local to Moydens in Shropshire)

Criticising small producers and local shops feels like letting the side down. But I’ll say the unsayable. Charging this kind of money for British cheese, however good, is a rip-off. however well-heeled (or crazily food-obsessed) your clientele. Overcharging your regulars is just plain short-sighted. They'll buy less or less often - or simply not buy from you at all.

Do you find cheese expensive and does it put you off shopping at cheese shops? And if you’re a producer or deli feel free to tell me that I’m being unfair!

*Incidentally not everything they sell is expensive. You can buy great farmhouse butter for £1.30 a pack - considerably cheaper than most supermarkets.

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Comments: 4 (Add)

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Danielle on December 16 2013 at 21:44

Moydens cheese supply green fields, support local producers and restaurants around the Shropshire area and I find personally they are priced reasonable. I'd rather have a piece of delicious mouthwatering cheese that was a little bit more expensive than the usual plain stuff Asda and tesco sell!!!

Del Sneddon on December 16 2013 at 18:05

I don't disagree that high quality, handmade cheese is expensive. But it has to be a level playing field to make these kind of comparisons. Sure, you'll pay £35pk in Asda for fillet. Fillet that's going to be, at most, prosaic. And it's the same for mass-produced cheese that you can pick up for £12pk. Like for like, that's a third of the price of Asda's fillet in terms of relative quality. Good quality fillet will cost upwards of £50pk, and yes, good quality cheese can, and will cost £30 or so: but that's nearly half the cost of equivalent quality meat. Factory made cheesemakers can afford to price their product much cheaper because most of the process is automated, uses modified and less expensive ingredients. Yes, it's expensive, but like small batch, single cask whiskies, rarity and the artisan nature of the process demands a price tag well above the ordinary.

Fiona Beckett on December 16 2013 at 11:44

This is the danger, I agree Ian. Cheese shops will price themselves out of business if they're not careful.

Iain on December 15 2013 at 22:33

Can't agree more, I try and support my local artisanal cheese and wine shop but being on a fixed income I can afford less and less. This Christmas I had to cut my cheeses back to a piece of Montgomery and a small piece of stichelton, and had to request that the total be kept below £20!
Frankly the way things are going I'm afraid the supermarkets will be getting most of my custom simply because I can't afford to support my local shop

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