Oregon’s artisan cheese industry is growing quickly, but it’s an expensive one to enter, according to a study by Oregon State University.
Starting a relatively small operation that processes and ages 7,500 pounds of cheese a year costs $267,248, according to the study. A company that produces 60,000 pounds of cheese a year has startup costs of $623,874.
The costs vary based on the type of milk used, the variety of cheeses produced and factors such as labor, creamery location and transportation costs.
The study was co-authored by Lisbeth Goddik, a food and technology professor at OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, and Cathy Durham, an applied economics professor who works at OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland. In a news release, Goddik and Durham said they wanted to give prospective entrepreneurs a realistic view of the cost involved.
Cheese-making has emerged as a hot field of study within OSU’s fermentation science program. In addition to cheese, students learn to make wine and beer, distilled spirits, baked goods and other fermented food. The program produces “Beaver Classic,” an alpine-style cheese made from milk supplied by the OSU dairy herd.
The number of Oregon artisan cheese manufacturers increased from three in 1999 to 20 in 2014, according to OSU.