Natural vs. Processed Cheese

cheese

Who doesn't love cheese?  Well, maybe someone who is allergic to milk, but besides that...what's not to love? I mean it's gooey, soft, creamy, and full of fat.  What's not to love? Let's find out, shall we?

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, cheese has been around for 4,000 years. No one really knows who first discovered cheese, however, it is believed to be first transported in the bladder of sheep....ewww! Anyway, I'm glad we are past that part in history. Cheese making has been increasing in production since its beginning.  It wasn't until the 1800's that America built it's first factory in Greene County, Wisconsin, by Swiss immigrants. By 1880, 3,923 dairy factories were producing 216 million pounds of cheese.  In 1920, the total natural cheese production of 418 million pounds to 2.2 billion pounds in 1970. Production was booming, but the food industry decided there needed to be some adjustments. As a result, processed cheese was created.

Both natural and processed cheese come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Processed cheeses most commonly comes wrapped in plastic in a single slice.  It's also found in cans, tubes and boxes. Natural cheeses are found in loaf sizes or in the shape of a wheel, which can be sliced, cubed or grated.  Natural cheese is 100% cheese, whereby, processed is 51% or less cheese.  The other 49% or more is something else. I wonder what???

Processed cheese begins with natural cheese that is melted down, emulsified and the preservatives and artificial ingredients are added to hold it all together. Lastly, salt is added to the mixture, sometimes twice a much as natural cheese.  It is then poured and reformed in the desired cheese product.  Processed cheese is produced in a matter of days and is placed on the grocery store shelf for purchase.  Natural cheeses are aged depending on sharpness up to three years before it is packaged and shipped to the store for purchase.

Processed cheeses contain emulsifiers, saturated vegetable oil, extra salt, food colorings, whey and sugar. Scientist have developed processed cheese that will last longer on the shelf, resist separating when cooked, and provide a uniform appearance and physical behavior.  What makes processed cheese so appealing?  The low cost to consumers.  Manufactures have lower distribution costs, a steady supply, and a faster production time compared to natural cheeses. Bottom line, it's cheap food.

In 2002, the FDA warned Kraft's use of labeling on some of their products.  Now processed cheeses are labeled cheese PRODUCT or cheese FOOD. Read your labels. Have you seen the You Tube video that floated around about the American cheese slice? It is interesting that the cheese never melts.  This is where I could put my personal opinion in, but I'm choosing to bite my tongue, so to speak, and end this post here. Be aware of what you are purchasing for yourself and your families.  Be a wise consumer. Stay with natural, whole foods as much as you can. Purchase the best foods you can afford.

Health-bite: purchase natural cheeses