According to online job website SimplyHired, the average salary in listings for cheesemaker in 2014 was $21,000. However, job descriptions vary, running from small, artisanal operations to large industrial plants, where the cheesemaker had supervisory responsibilities. So salaries will vary, too; for example, one Ohio company looking for a master cheesemaker in 2014 offered a yearly salary of $65,000. Local food safety and sanitation licensing is often required, as is knowledge of an establishment’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan.
While there are countless varieties of cheese being made today, cheesemaking is generally broken into two main types: industrial and artisanal. The basic science that goes into making cheeses remains the same, but the methods and tools of application differ greatly. This affects salaries as well: a broader spectrum of specialized knowledge may be expected in artisanal than industrial cheesemaking. However, unless an artisanal cheesemaking operation is already well established, the salary may not necessarily be commensurate with the knowledge required.
California and Wisconsin are well-known hubs of U.S. cheesemaking. However, smaller artisanal producers of cheeses can be found throughout the country. Trade publications and local cheesemongers are good sources of the most current information on what cheesemakers exist in your area at any given moment.
A cheesemaker’s salary is what pays that cheesemaker’s bills, as with any other working person in any profession. What sets cheesemakers apart is their passion for the process of creating cheese. While monetary compensation is both good and necessary, an environment that fosters production of cheeses that the cheesemakers feel proud of and invested in can help to bridge the gap between what monetary compensation you can offer and what cheesemakers would ideally like to make. This is sometimes, but not always, the biggest difference between an artisanal and an industrial cheesemaking operation.
Offer high-quality benefits in addition to a salary for your cheesemakers. Go beyond standard health insurance, paid vacation time, and personal holidays — think about educational opportunities. Foster your cheesemakers’ love of learning about the art and soul of cheese. While your business must pay careful attention to the bottom line, small investments in your employees, such as underwriting cheesemaking courses and seminars, can help set your business apart. Once you have attracted high-caliber talent, you must seek to retain it, especially in a field that is relatively specialized.
Additional Income Sources
Culinary students and food enthusiasts are interested in learning more about the cheesemaking process. Consider offering courses to these individuals as a source of revenue for generating additional money to pay your existing cheesemakers. Tours of cheesemaking facilities, as long as your local department of public health approves, can also serve to generate revenue. Contact local colleges with culinary arts programs to see about offering internship opportunities to students. You can opt to pay a small amount to interns, or pay nothing in exchange for college credit that is applied toward their degrees. This can help raise interest in cheesemaking while keeping your staff compensation costs down.