The specialty definition is a key to identifying the best cheese.
In addition to defining the exact definition of cheese, the specialty definition also helps determine what types of cheeses are most popular, and how much cheese is available in different specialty cheesemaking categories.
Some cheesemakers have developed special criteria for defining their specialty cheese.
Others, such as the American Cheese Council, consider their specialty as a whole.
For example, some cheesemaker consider their cheese to be unique, meaning the cheese has an “extra” character or flavor.
Others consider the cheese to have “a character of its own,” meaning the cheesemaster can tailor their cheese accordingly.
To determine which cheesemakes are in demand, USA Today analyzed sales data for specialty cheesemsakers from January through December of this year.
For each specialty cheese, USA TODAY also calculated a cheese’s average sales volume and average price per pound for each specialty category.
The average volume of a specialty cheese is calculated by subtracting the number of ounces sold by each specialty cheesemaker from the total volume of the specialty category, and dividing the number by the number sold by the specialty cheesmaker for each category.
For example, if a specialty cheesemarker sells a 2,200-ounce (600-ounce) specialty cheese in the specialty cheese category, the average volume is 2,500 ounces (400 ounces).
For each specialty type of cheese sold, the top five cheesemakers are given a gold medal for their specialty category and a silver medal for each of the other categories.
USA TODAY then averaged the results of those top five cheesemakers and gave each category a silver star.
The rankings for specialty cheese sales were then averaged across specialty categories.