Monday, November 15, 2010

Cheese, Junk Food, and Health

An article in the November 6, 2010 edition of The New York Times purporting to be about cheese describes an apparent conflict within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While one part of USDA is encouraging Americans to choose healthier diets, another is working with industry to promote increased consumption of dairy products, particularly cheese. The implication is that eating cheese is inherently unhealthy. Of course this is wrong and therefore unfortunate, because the real messages of the article are important and worth knowing.

1) In a roundabout attempt to improve the plight of dairy farmers, the Federal Government is subsidizing big businesses like Domino's and other corporate fast food producers. This kind of government spending generates few complaints from politicians, even self-proclaimed deficit hawks.

2) By encouraging the inclusion of more cheese in processed foods, the USDA is abetting a trend that many people blame for homogenizing and degrading our cuisine. The industrialization of mainstream American cheese has led to plentiful, but mostly unremarkable products best used in processed foods. High in cheap calories and fat, the products (mostly pizzas) described in the article are a far cry from the real foods, including distinctive cheeses, that Americans increasingly demand. 

As we pointed out in The Summer of a Thousand Cheeses, good artisanal cheeses are eminently healthful when consumed as part of a sensible diet.

This New York Times article is not about cheese; it is about junk food. 

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