American Cheese Is Neither

I don’t like American Cheese product. Note I don’t call it cheese, because it isn’t. Some brands do have SOME cheese in them. But most popular, inexpensive brands are made of whey, which is the waste water from cheese making, oil, flavoring and salt. Lots of salt. Always beware of a product that contains a lot of salt, because it probably means it has no flavor without it.

Now we’re finding out that not only is American Cheese product not cheese, we’re also learning it’s not American! With U.S. dairy farmers and the brink of collapse, makers of American Cheese product are IMPORTING the ingredients they use. So, when you’re buying American Cheese product or ordering it on your food, you’re actually helping to kill off American farmers. That’s more than just unpatriotic.

And why would you eat this stuff? There are so many wonderful cheeses available, including some very good ones from Wisconsin, Vermont and California. I guess that’s another symptom of the disease that is gripping the United States. We have bored our taste buds to death, so we pay no attention to what we eat, so we get fat and sick.

First of all, you may have noticed that the makers of this product have relabeled it. The packages used to say “a processed cheese food.” Now they’ve replaced the word “processed” with something that means the same thing. Apparently, they’ve noticed that some people are avoiding processed food and want to take that word out of it.

Still, that’s what it is. But it wasn’t always that. American cheese, as a real cheese, did exist for a while prior to World War II. It was a blended cheese made mostly from Colby and Cheddar, melted together with some milk. It was originally made during Revolutionary times because of the rising price of English cheddar. When milk became a rationed commodity, American cheese was the only type available for most U.S. consumers. In the wake of World War II, cheese makers began using non-cheese ingredients like whey and whey protein, along with vegetable oil, water and milkfat.

I just can’t see why someone would eat those pre-wrapped “slices” that are not sliced and look like a piece of soft plastic. The less they look like food, the less likely they ARE food. These are extruded, like waste from an animal’s rear end and are about as appetizing.

If you MUST have American Cheese, buy the higher-end stuff that actually LOOKS like cheese and looks like it might really have been sliced off a larger block. These usually have at least SOME cheese in them. And try to buy those made from American ingredients from American cows. The label will tell you.

Why is that important? Because American dairy farmers are being put out of business by low prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Most of the ingredients, like whey protein concentrate, are imported, because the imported product is even cheaper. That’s being done by the big food companies that are now getting even bigger. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just stated that the top 10 food companies now control over 80 percent of food in the U.S., up from around 65 percent just a year ago. This consolidation of the industry makes it even harder for small family-run dairies to stay in business.

So, check the labels. If milk isn’t the first ingredient, put it back. If it doesn’t say it’s from American cows, put it back. And try the whole wonderful world of cheeses, from fresh Farmers Cheese (soft, white, a bit like Ricotta) to good old Wisconsin cheddar, from goat cheese (really yummy on a bagel) to Pecorino (a hard Parmesan type cheese made from sheep’s milk, there are a lot of other choices you may have never tried. And they can be used on a sandwich just as easily as those processed slices.

Bring better food into your Bachelor’s Kitchen.