I appreciate the specifics here.
Personally I favored a higher cost. However, my brother is dubious of the local market's willingness to pay for good cheese.
I would rather have the cheese priced higher myself.
We figured $9/# total expenses, including our own labor costs, for production, and then have a value-added expense table made up for aging
The thing that must be considered here with this cheese, however, is that Swiss type cheeses are staple foods, and eaten in large quantities with every meal by the locals. This is especially the case in the Bernese Alps, Alpkäse has for centuries been the primary protein source. With that in mind, the cheese has to be affordable for people to actually be able to eat it in the way it is intended to be. Alpkäse is best eaten like this. We do not wish to price our product so high that it is not affordable.
My thought is to find a suitable price range that will allow the cheese to be used as it is supposed to be. For this, our cheese can't be more expensive than quality beef (not per pound, a pound of hard cheese goes much further than a pound of beef)
Now with that in mind, the price can still be higher than it is. If you can buy a decent steak for $5/#, and you could expect a reasonably sane person to eat maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound of the cheese to match 1/2# or so of meat, that puts equivalent pricing in the $15 to $20 range to remain competitive.
Also, we are a Mennonite operation. Yes that does give us liberty to increase our price, because of public image and such, but also we as a result have the desire to make our prices such that other Mennonites and Amish friends and relatives of ours will actually buy our products. We as a people like to not spend a lot of money on things. But this again is a type of cheese totally different than any other cheese people are used to. Most Americans think of cheese as a snack or ingredient, and expect to pay prices that reflect that. Why pay $20/# for a snack, when you can get something far cheaper? (selling as an ingredient to restaurant chefs is a different matter)
But we are trying to reintroduce people to the concept of cheese as a staple food and an integral part of the meal, and something that in a pinch can be a meal in itself. If you are buying snack-quality (i.e. cheap) cheeses, than this is a horrifying proposal. But if we present our cheese not as something to compare to cheep supermarket cheddar, but as something to instead compare to beef and pork and chicken as a protein source, then suddenly you open the door to much higher prices.
Yes there are smart people who know it is worth paying money for good cheese even if you are not using it as a staple food, and there are certainly chefs who understand it is worth paying a premium for artisan cheeses to include in their menus and recipes. We also hope to introduce our cheese as something people eat regularly, and in large quantity. We don't know which market will take off the best for us, but I also understand that we need to place our price in a range that will fit all three targets. And certainly I am open to the notion that our current price is too low.