Cheddar-Makers Have Launched a Smear Campaign Against American Cheese
Tillamook has had it up to here with fluorescent, oily processed goo being named the signature cheese of our great nation, and they're petitioning to put an end to it.
Photo via Flickr user Donald Durham
Crucial as it is for grilled cheese sandwiches and beloved as it may be by middle school cafeterias and children with sensitive palates, American cheese does not have the best rep in the cheese world.
It is to Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue or Vacherin Mont D'Or as Paris Hilton is to Joan Didion. Flatness of flavor where many reach for depth. Tackiness without self-reflection. A shiny veneer instead of the endearing signs (and stink) of age.
American cheese is near-fluorescent and completely homogenous in texture. It melts easily and retains its flat, square shape with ease. And some of the other cheeseries in its eponymous nation want to dig its grave once and for all.
Dairy processor Tillamook—which is actually the Tillamook County Creamery, a co-op of dairy farmers, rather than a single operation—has teamed with creative agency 72andSunny and started a petition to have American cheese stripped of its name. "'American cheese' is un-American," it brazenly declares on its website. "Processed cheese product doesn't deserve to be called American."
And they're not content just to desecrate the very existence of the smooth and salty stuff. They've started a White House petition to end the reign of Kraft and Velveeta by collecting 100,000 signatures demanding that "American cheese" dub itself something else. Its current moniker, apparently, is a lie.
American cheese is already, by law, forbidden from labeling itself as proper "cheese." Instead, it must use terminology such as "cheese product," "cheese food," or "processed cheese," due to the fact that it contains high percentages of milk fat and oil rather than what technically constitutes real cheese. But Tillamook aims to eliminate the notion that American cheese is something that Americans should be proud of at all.
"We the people of the United States of America are being falsely represented by our namesake 'American Cheese,'" the petition reads. "With as many as 18 ingredients like sorbic acid and sodium phosphate, the FDA says processed "American Cheese" can't even be called cheese … Out of respect for the hard work and integrity that our nation was built upon, we respectfully ask that these processed, plastic-wrapped slices of deception be stripped of America's name."
Oh, and the beef doesn't end there. In accordance with the take-down, there is a commercial from Tillamook and 72andSunny featuring an exhumed Abraham Lincoln riding a bear and expressing his disapproval towards plastic-wrapped American "singles."
Do 100,000 people want to shame the shit out of American cheese for its mode of self-identification? Only time will tell. Many people dearly love their queso and macaroni and cheese made with the easily meltable stuff. (The petition has only gained 313 signatures as of press time.) Tillamook is best known for its award-winning Cheddar, although it also produces ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, and other dairy products.
American cheese may seem easy to pick on due to its artificial nature, but it's still a major cash cow for some of the nation's biggest food companies. Velveeta, for example, rakes in more than half a billion dollars for Kraft every year.
While we can understand Cheddar's beef with American cheese, Americans themselves might not be so bothered.
After all, being fast, cheap, and smooth is pretty damn American.