Cheese Yield

Science Byte

How cheesemakers get the most bang for their buck

“10 pounds of milk for every pound of cheese.” This mantra is a very rough approximation for the concept of cheese yield. A cheesemaker would measure their cheese yield by comparing how much milk they started with against how much cheese they produced. For some cheese varieties, 10% is a common value, thus the mantra.


A basic equation for cheese yield

There are many factors that play into cheese yield. Some are in the cheesemakers control and others are a bit more nebulous. A few such factors include: recovery of fat/protein/moisture in the cheese, quality of the milk, type of cheese being produced, and many others. For many cheesemakers, especially large-scale producers, a fraction of a percent difference in cheese yield can have tremendous effects on their bottom line.

It can be useful to predict cheese yield and tailor those predictions to an individual cheese plant. An often-used method to do this is to employ the Van Slyke Yield Equation. This equation takes into account the starting composition of the milk and the ability for a cheesemaker to recover fat, moisture, protein in their cheese.

Van Slyke yield equation

Here’s an explanation of the terms:

  • RF – recovery of fat in cheese. ~0.92 for cheddar
  • RC – recovery of casein in cheese. ~0.95 for cheddar
  • RS – recovery of solids in cheese. ~1.09 for cheddar
  • % cheese solids – another way accounting for moisture recovery in cheese


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