Bad news! There might not be any more feta cheese made in the US.
At least that’s the demand that the European Union (EU) is making: it wants to ban the use of European names like feta, parmesan, gruyere for cheese made in the US. The EU argues that the American versions are mere shadows of the original, not to mention they are damaging sales.
This has already happened to various foods within the EU. The Bavarian pretzel, for example, can only be produced within the EU in Bavaria. At this point, items made and sold outside the EU, such as “Bavarian” pretzels made and sold in the US, are permitted. But now the EU wants to change this.
The argument is that parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders so popular in the US. Likewise, feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn’t actually a place. The EU argues it “is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product.”
Are they serious? American consumers are smart enough to figure out where a product comes from, and in any case, isn’t it more important that the cheese in question is made under good conditions?
US Dairy Producers Are Furious
US dairy producers, cheesemakers and food companies are all fighting the idea, which they say would hurt the $4 billion domestic cheese industry and endlessly confuse consumers.
From The Guardian:
“It’s really stunning that the Europeans are trying to claw back products made popular in other countries,” says Jim Mulhern, president of the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents US dairy farmers.
The European Union would not say exactly what it is proposing or even whether it will be discussed this week as a new round of talks on an EU-United States free trade agreement opens in Brussels.
European Commission spokesman Roger Waite would only say that the question “is an important issue for the EU.”
Concerned about the impact of this decision, a bipartisan group of 55 senators wrote to US Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week asking them not to agree to any such proposals by the EU.
New York Senator Charles Schumer and Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Toomey led the group, which wrote that in the states they represent, “many small- or medium-sized, family owned businesses could have their businesses unfairly restricted” and that export businesses could be gravely hurt.
Cheddar Cheese Offers a Solution
Here’s the solution that Cheddar Cheese has come up with. Since the 12th century, Cheddar cheese has been made in the county of Somerset in the southwest of England and has taken its name from the Gorge or caves in the town of Cheddar that were used to store the cheese. The constant temperature and humidity of the caves provided a perfect environment for maturing the cheese.
Today Cheddar cheese is still made in Somerset but also all over the world. However, only 14 makers are licensed to use the EU Protected Designation of Origin “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.” The cheese must be made on a farm in the four counties of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset from locally produced milk and using traditional Cheddar making techniques.
Why not do the same for all these other cheeses?
But while we’re on this topic, should we really be eating this much cheese anyway?
Cheese: The Good and The Bad
There is no one simple answer. With its naturally-occurring calcium, cheese can be a big help when it comes to sustaining a strong skeleton. But you don’t need much of it: a one-ounce cheese serving provides about one-fourth of your daily calcium requirement.
On the other hand, cheese can cause heart disease. The key is to go for low-fat cheeses and avoid full-fat cheeses, since these foods typically contain hefty amounts of artery-clogging saturated fat — up to 6 grams in just one ounce of full-fat cheese. That’s about one third of the total saturated fat recommended for good health in a single day.
Whatever type of cheese you are eating, it’s a good idea to keep portions small.
As for those Europeans trying to change what Americans call their cheese, let’s hope they lighten up. After all, many of the finest cheese-makers in the US originally came from Europe, bringing their cheese recipes with them.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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