Monger Tip: Explaining Expiration Dates
As a cheesemonger, there are many unique situations in which you find yourself on a daily basis. Whether it be talking to a customer about their dairy allergy or introducing someone to blue cheese for the first time, I usually find these situations rewarding. That being said, I know from personal experience that there are situations that particularly frustrate a cheesemonger. I am going to talk about one of these situations today and that is… expiration/sell by dates.
That’s right, I said it, the dreaded label that we as retailers have to put on the cheese we cut and wrap in our shop that includes both the pack date and the suggested sell by date. These labels and dates are a huge source of frustration to any cheesemonger because it is so hard to tell a customer that these dates are just dates that are set in the scale. Americans especially fear the expiration date and think that once that date is reached, it must be thrown away.
In dealing with this frustration, I learned from one of the most influential cheese people in my life how to easily and effectively explain this to a customer. She told me to compare cheese to produce in that fresh produce does not come with a sell by date. All produce (like cheese) are at different stages in their ripening and development and it is up to the customer to use their best judgment and choose produce that is at the stage of ripening that they desire.
The same goes with cheese! The suggested sell by date is helpful in that you can tell how long ago the cheese was cut, but the scale doesn’t know the exact date this cheese should be sold by! It is up to the customer to use their eyes, nose, and taste buds to decide if this cheese is at the right stage in ripening for them to enjoy it the most. So the next time you have a customer ask whether or not the cheese will go bad by the sell by date, use this produce analogy and hopefully it will help you teach your customers a little bit more about cheese and what cheese is all about.
Leah McFadden is an American Cheese Society(ACS) Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) and a cheesemonger for Whole Foods Market in Santa Clara, CA. Leah was one of the official cheesemongers of the ACS 2013 conference. She loves to write about food - and especially cheese- on her blog, Shootin’ the Bries.