The current issue of Choice Magazine (the Australian “Consumer Reports”) has a report on cheddar cheese.

They had five experts blindly rate 28 cheddar cheeses, ranging from your cloth- or wax-wrapped special deli cheddar at $50+ dollars per kilo down to the supermarket brands, sometimes less than $10 per kilo.

Eyeballing the results table, it seemed that price wasn’t a reliable guide to quality – some good cheeses were quite cheap and vice versa.

In the results table, they listed overall quality (score out of 20) and price per kg. They didn’t offer a “value for money” rating, so I copied the table into Excel and had it compute “value for money” as quality divided by price.

Now that the data was in Excel, we could probe a little further.

Turns out the correlation between quality and price was -.05. In other words, the quality of the cheese you buy, on average, has virtually nothing to do with price. If anything, as you go up in price, it gets worse.

Consequently, the correlation between quality and value for money was abysmal: -.8. In other words, on average, the more you pay, the more you’re getting ripped off.

Some cheeses had long names with lots of fancy-sounding words, such as “Devondale Special Reserve Premium Aged Vintage.” That must be a good cheese, right?

I used Excel to count the characters in a cheese’s name. Running the correlations showed that length of name bears little if any relation to price, quality, or value for money.

Conclusions: buying cheddar cheese is a lottery. If you haven’t tasted the cheeses, and are just trying to guess which ones are good, ignore price and fancy names; these have nothing to do with quality. If you want value for money, go for the cheaper cheese.

In short: when buying cheddar cheese in Australia, it just isn’t true that “you get what you pay for.”

PS – the cheese I’ll buy: South Cape Vintage Black Label. Nearly the top in quality, but only $15 a kilo.

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