Cheese By Any Other Name

by Dennis Machicao

It seems that there is another war brewing with world wide international consequences.  No the Taliban is not acting up again, (still), nor is Russia ready to invade another sovereign country and another passenger jet liner has not mysteriously disappeared into thin air.

But this incident is involving European governments, the US Congress, multi-national diplomats and world economies. There are the beginnings of a cheese war.

The United States is the largest manufacturer of cheese in the world and it seems that the EU (European Union) members are not very happy that the US manufacturers use traditional cheese names for their cheeses and are wanting to band the practice.

They contend that traditionally cheese that has been made in a specific region of a particular European country, that cheese has taken the name of that region and if it is not made there, then it should not be called such. So according to them, a cheese cannot be called parmesan, Gorgonzola, Asiago, Gruyere, brie, Muenster and even feta if they have not been made in the specific country and region that they are traditionally made. They must have the historic lineage from when they were once made to carry that name.

Although the US cheese makers respect the EU members’ tradition, they are adamant in protecting their $4 billion dollar cheese industry. The European countries argue that the US has cut their sales and identity of such cheeses. Back home, the U.S. Senate has gathered more than half of its 100 members to urge the U.S. Agriculture Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative to defend what they considered have become common names rather than regional specific for these products and fight the EU’s band on using regional dedicated names.

This is very much like the French when they banned the use of the name Champagne for sparkling wine if it was not made in the region of Champagne, France.

There are various arguments, pro and con to this proposal. Many feel that the band is more directed to cheap mass-produced cheese, like the Kraft’s of this world, rather than those produced in the more traditional manner that made these cheeses distinctive in taste, texture and smell through out the world.

Although they might be made in the U.S., they follow the traditional cheese making that was brought over by many immigrants who came to this country.  Others argue that the name identifies the cheese’s origin and should be called such only if it is made in that specific region. It is becoming a hot and serious battle where each side is protecting its own economic value of their industry.

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