2020's disruptions finally catch up to aged cheese.

By Tim Nelson
February 04, 2021
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At this point, we're increasingly used to the circumstances of a pandemic that maybe, theoretically, will end one day. Though the "new normal" has prevailed for a while among us everyday folk, there are still some corners of the culinary world where the impact of 2020's world-disrupting event are only now becoming apparent. 

Case in point: Get prepared to pay more money for Parmesan cheese pretty soon, as the lagging effects of supply chain issues will soon become apparent. Some believe that by April of 2021, we could be paying as much as an extra $1.50 to $2.00 per Parmesan pound. 

The reason? Parmesan needs to age for at least 10 months before it's mature enough for sale, meaning the shortages and struggles that mongers of this particular cheese faced in the earliest days of Covid are only now being passed on to consumers. 

In the case of this particularly loved dairy product, last year's milk supply issues and shortages are at least partially to blame. The price increases and scarcity associated with milk in turn raised the production costs associated with Parmesan starting in spring of 2020, with Wisconsin Parm maker Schuman Cheese telling Eat This, Not That they faced production cost increases of between 40 to 60 percent. Naturally, those are beginning to get passed onto consumers now that the first batches of pandemic Parmesan are going on sale. 

pieces of parmesan cheese on a wooden cutting board
Credit: Mauro69/Getty Images

It doesn't seem like the Parmesan price problem is going to correct itself overnight, either. Neil Cox, Schuman Cheese's Chief Customer Officer, predicting to Eat This, Not That that the cheese will cost more for about six months, a challenge exacerbated by the fact that there's no easy substitute for Parmesan. As he sees it, that leaves us little choice but to suck it up. 

"I would guess it may slow down consumers' purchase patterns," Cox hypothesized. "But people will, in all likelihood, pay the increase because, ultimately, it's still delivering an experience and flavor."

So if you want to keep grating aged cheese on your pasta, it's time to pay up or go without. Hopefully the increased prices won't shred our savings forever, because let's be real, we're not giving up cheese.