Cheese, glorious cheese!
I generally do not eat dairy. Think about it. Humans are the only species that drinks the milk of other species. And humans are the only species that drinks that milk of other species, after weaning. Our systems aren’t made to process it well. Those of us who have fine-tuned our diet have an even greater problem with dairy. I don’t crave it and don’t want it – except for CHEESE!!!!
Actually, cheese has some excellent nutritional benefits, as long as you don’t overdo it and overload on the fat content. And, cheese doesn’t give me a problem! While I don’t think we’re technically ‘lactose intolerant’, those who are lactose intolerant have no problem with cheese. Why? When milk turns to cheese, it goes through a process called acidification, which is a souring process. The lactose in the milk converts to lactic acid. It becomes a different entity altogether. By the time a cheese is aged, most if not all of the lactose is gone. The more aged or the firmer the cheese, the safer it is to eat if you’re lactose intolerant.
WHEW! I’m really glad to know all of that. Both Mark and I are cheese lovers, but we do limit ourselves, AND as always, I read every label when buying cheese.
There are organic cheeses that are really good and easily available in the States. Horizon and Organic Valley make some good basic cheeses and they’re reasonably priced. But if you want something really special, you should be looking at cheeses that are not made in the US. Knowing the contamination factor of GMO’s in this country, as always, you should go organic.
And knowing that Europe is very anti-GMO gives me a better feeling about their cheeses. There are some excellent Canadian cheeses as well. I could spend hours in the cheese section of Whole Foods or any other store that has an excellent cheese section. Trader Joes? Just read the labels. Trader Joe’s has inexpensive food, but it’s often NOT organic and NOT non-GMO.
When it comes to labeling, like anything imported into the US, the country of origin should be displayed on the product. In my case, I’m not looking to eliminate the product from viable choices. I’m looking for something that is a better choice than most cheeses in the US.
Until fairly recently, you could count on the type and name of a cheese to know where it was produced based on the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) , PGI (Protected Geographical Indication and TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed). The European Union protects the name of regional foods and it is enforced within the EU and internationally via bilateral agreements with non-EU countries. This protects the reputation of regional foods and insures a consistent quality for those items. Wines, cheeses, hams, sausage, olives and beer are governed by this. Some examples of cheeses that fall into this category are Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago and Roquefort. But cheesemakers nationwide have begun to infringe on these protections. If you ask me, it makes them look really bad. Yes, they make some tasty (and some organic) cheese in Wisconsin but can’t they create their own styles? Why do they feel they have the right to take something that is not theirs?
The US hasn’t been particularly helpful in this legal process, protecting these lovely foods, and thus, you see more and more US-made ‘imitations’ of European cheeses. Without the particulars of the location that they are traditionally made in, you aren’t getting anything remotely close to the original. For example, to be named Roquefort, Cheese.Wikia.com says, ” cheese must be made from the milk of a certain breed of sheep, and matured in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort in the Aveyron region of France, where it is infected with the spores of a particular fungus (Penicillium roqueforti) that grows in these caves. “
Interestingly enough, what’s good for the goose doesn’t seem to be good for the gander. Cheese producers in Wisconsin infringe on EU PDO products constantly. You really have to read the labels to know what you’re getting, because the people in Wisconsin have adopted Italian, Dutch and French names for their companies. Here is a prime example and if you ask me, it should be illegal. Those who know no better could be easily duped into buying a product that is in fact NOT Gorgonzola and NOT Italian. YET, many regions in the US feel they deserve the protections that the US denies European producers. Some examples: Georgia feels that to be labeled a Vidalia Onion, it must be produced in the area of Vidalia, Georgia. Idaho feels the same way about their potatoes and Florida is very protective of their Florida Orange Juice moniker.
So again, we’re back to reading labels. On my trip to the market yesterday, I took some pictures of cheese labels to illustrate what we’re talking about.
Note how BelGioioso uses an Italian Name, claims to be an Italian Blue Cheese, yet it’s made in Wisconsin.
And finally, I found this interesting little gem (Castello) in the cheese section at the local supermarket. I’ve turned it inside out and found no country of origin. So I bought it, since I love this type of cheese, thinking perhaps that once it was opened, the magical country of origin would be revealed. Nope!
Now, I suspected it was from Denmark since I saw a small stamp on it that said DK. But again, it didn’t meet the requirements for labeling in the US.
And shame on Publix for not adhering to the law that requires that anything they sell is properly labeled as to country of origin. I might have passed this by, assuming it was another deception by a Wisconsin cheesemaker, if I’d not seen the DK in the small circle on the back. And most Americans don’t know the symbols for European countries.
Finally, the entire time I’ve been writing this, a commercial jingle from the 80’s kept rolling around in my head so I am including it below. Now it will probably embed itself in YOUR head for the rest of the day. Enjoy!
(Edit: Now after posting, I realized that this ad was for the American Dairy Council and our dairy products in 1987 were already soaked in pesticides. Oh well. All we can do is demand better for ourselves and our family. )