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Death, Taxes and Rising Cheese Costs

Time to face the fact, pizza prices must go up


April 14, 2008
By Diana Coutu

Topics

It’s one of the certainties of Canadian life: death, taxes and rising cheese prices.

It’s one of the certainties of Canadian life: death, taxes and rising cheese prices.

No matter that the average Canadian consumer doesn’t fully realize the latter. No matter that there are, in fact, two different class rates for cheese prices in Canada – one for fresh use and another, substantially lower price, for a different class of pizza makers, known as further producers (or frozen pizza manufacturers and grocery stores). No matter that Canadian pizza makers have been using less and less of the white gold known as mozzarella in order to keep prices unrealistically low. No matter that some Canadian pizza makers are even using cheese alternatives and fake cheeses for the same reason.

No matter.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years or you’re new to the industry, you know that the CDC (Canadian Dairy Commission) will soon be announcing next year’s cheese prices, supposedly taking into account many factors except the fact that milk production costs have decreased consistently over the last decade.

But the CDC always increases the cost for fresh use. Always. Every year. You can set your clock to it.

As far as I’m aware, the CDC came into existence because of cheap imported frozen pizzas from the U.S.  Their government heavily subsidizes the U.S. cheese industry. The Canadian pizza market was suffering as a result. The CDC came in to regulate cheese prices in order to give Canadian pizza makers a fighting chance. Except they ended up only helping Canadian frozen pizza manufacturers compete with frozen U.S. pizza makers.

Apparently, last year, so many of us pizzaiolos called the CDC to voice our opinions, they shut their phones off. I think they ordered a pizza in. Or they cooked up a frozen one. This year, I hope we all do the same. There’s no reason to let them off easy.   

Some of you may look for soy-based cheeses and cheese alternatives and I can’t blame you. Although, it is important to inform your customers of what they are getting, just in case of allergies.

Some of you will use a little less cheese. Some of you may cut corners on the quality of the toppings.

Hopefully, many of you will raise your prices and educate your customers about the two price classes for the same cheese. It’s the only way to stay in business. Those who don’t will find less and less in their bank accounts. That’s a real tragedy.

It’s my observation that pizzerias employ real people, while frozen pizza manufacturers, the big ones, use machines to put their pizzas together. It’s also my observation that no independent pizzeria has the bucks to sponsor a prime-time show like The Amazing Race, but frozen pizza manufacturers do it all the time.

While in New York for the America’s Plate competition, John, the Australian fellow who took first place, used buffalo cheese. I didn’t get to taste it but it smelled pretty good. Traditionally, mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk. Perhaps we need a Canadian herd of water buffalo to produce fine mozzarella for fresh use. Heck, I’m willing to try it. And I’m pretty sure that it would circumvent the CDC’s control entirely.

Are there any pizzaiolos out there that know some farmers willing to take on a new market?

I also became acquainted with the other teams and I couldn’t help but admire Team Australia and Team New Zealand’s relationship with the Australian Dairy Farmers. They have a symbiotic relationship, and they know it. The Australian Dairy Farmers are the big sponsor of a nationwide pizza contest and of course, Team Australia. They invite the public to all the pizza shows and it’s a big draw.

Their team manager is a gal named Livia from the Australian Dairy Farmers union, and I think she was more excited about the International win than John was. John is going to get free cheese for his pizzeria for the next two years. Just imagine, for a moment, what that would mean for your business.  You’d probably have the bucks to sponsor a prime-time show.•