May 26, 2016

"America can’t eat its way out of this massive cheese problem."

Yes, we have a cheese problem. I'm acknowledging it by quoting that headline I like, but it's in the Washington Post behind its pay way, so you probably won't bother clicking on this link. I'll quote a bit:
[E]ach American would have to eat an extra 3 pounds of cheese this year, on top of the 36 pounds we already consume per capita, to eliminate the big yellow mountain. Even for a society that piles the stuff on sandwiches and rolls it into pizza crusts, that’s a tall order....

... Americans will probably never top the world champion cheese-eaters, who are, of course, the French, with annual per capita consumption of 57 pounds.
So we need to go from 36 to 39 to solve the problem, and the French already do 57. So why can't we eat our way out of this massive cheese problem? We'd need to increase our cheese intake by about 8%. What's that — an extra slice of pizza every 3 weeks? One extra slice on a sandwich once a week? Of all the things we are asked to do to help our country (and to help Wisconsin)....

Here's the Wall Street Journal article from a few days ago: "A Cheese Glut Is Overtaking America/Rise in production comes just as exports are hit by strong dollar; can you eat three pounds more?"

95 comments:

Quaestor said...

America cheese makers could reduce the glut by making more interesting cheeses with the milk they buy. We already have too much bland Colby and mawkish Cheddar. Why must we pay more for good Stilton than fillet mignon? Is cheese technology beyond us, the only nation whose citizens have walked on the Moon?

tim in vermont said...

Just have a bunch of dairy state Senators create new food guidelines the same as the wheat state Senators created the food pyramid! Next problem!

bagoh20 said...

Clearly we are not talking about government cheese, which is over-consumed and wildly out of stock for at least a generation into the future. Still, the orders keep coming in.

buwaya puti said...

I can try, I will do my best.
Better cheese than carbs, and its really good for diabetics.
Nature and unanticipated consequences have shown a solution, if we are willing to notice.

sezneg said...

Such bad economics in this article.

I suspect we will easily increase our consumption of cheese by 8%, as the excess supply will lead to lower prices.

Quaestor said...

The only domestic Stilton producer I know of insists (insists, mind you) on polluting their cheese with embedded fruit. The crap tastes more like yogurt than cheese. Is a simple ripened cheese incomprehensible to these people?

Luckily I know a farmer's market where I can occasionally get really strong goat cheese, which is fantastic. (A goat cheeseburger with mushrooms is truly delectable.) Unfortunately the maker only milks a small herd so the amount of cheese he can produce is quite limited.

Fernandinande said...

Dos tacos sin queso, por favor.

Some fascinating federal words about cheese:
"Milk means the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows, which may be clarified and may be adjusted by separating part of the fat therefrom; concentrated milk, reconstituted milk, and dry whole milk."

n.n said...

End progressive wars, impulsive regime changes, refugee crises, and inequitable trade. The price of compensation for a local debt holiday has been high. The cheese glut can be resolved through global economic revitalization and regulatory reform.

Char Char Binks said...

I'll do my part.

buwaya puti said...

A Stilton is a noble thing, but expensive because it is handmade. It also does not bear over-consumption. A little goes a long way.
No, the challenge is cheese in bulk. I propose changing the proportions of cheese to noodles, double slices on burgers, cheese sauces, more Alfredo than Primavera.
With some thought and creativity we can solve this.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaestor said...

The flaw in American capitalism is the fact that it encourages producers to compete more about price than variety, which is why the typical store has nine brands of shredded mozzarella and no fontina.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I bet socialism could fix this problem. It has a very solid track record of eliminating gluts of food and other consumer products.

MadisonMan said...

I say we convert cheese to ethanol. Surely that will make economic sense.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignorance is Bliss said...

Maybe we just need to import more French.

Birkel said...

Prices drop, consumption increases, production decreases and a new equilibrium is found.

The writer(s) and editor(s) are economic illiterates.

Quaestor said...

A Stilton is a noble thing, but expensive because it is handmade.

But is it necessarily handmade? Can't the minds that invented "American Cheese Food Product" invent an acceptable Stilton using industrial methods?

buwaya puti said...

And then there is the Asian market, which has never taken to cheese as an ingredient. The NYT can do their bit, with recipes and restaurant reviews. The massive potential export market is untapped.
Much bulk cheese has only traces of lactose (Parmesan, even been, domestic, Swiss, Cheddar - well, actual cheddar). So there is no biological problem here.

buwaya puti said...

Eggs and cheese are a diabetics best friends.

D.D. Driver said...

Challenge accepted.

Danno said...

Blogger Quaestor said...The flaw in American capitalism is the fact that it encourages producers to compete more about price than variety, which is why the typical store has nine brands of shredded mozzarella and no fontina.

You should probably shop at non-typical stores, like gourmet shops, Whole Foods, etc. And guys like me are perfectly content with our squeeky cheddar curds, and occasionally Havarti, Swiss, Provolone and other varieties. Call me boring, but a cheese snob I am not.

rehajm said...

Proof we have certainly created an oversupply of Socialists.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Can't we? I'll do my part! Hell, I'm already doing mine and at least a couple'a my neighbors'...but if eating a few extra pounds of cheese is what it takes to serve my country, by God I'm ready to go!

wholelottasplainin' said...

Prices drop, consumption increases, production decreases and a new equilibrium is found.

The writer(s) and editor(s) are economic illiterates.

**************

In a free market, yes.

But the dairy industry is heavily subsidized with price controls on milk and other products.

https://farm.ewg.org/top_recips.php?fips=00000&progcode=dairy&regionname=theUnitedStates

Here's a 2010 NYT article about the inconsistencies inherent in government subsidizing a product it [then, anyway] deemed unhealthy because of its fat content:

http://goo.gl/oQzuze


Want to get rid of all that cheese ****the government**** is buying up? STOP buying it, and end the subsidies, which now are paid in the billions, mainly to Big Dairy.

traditionalguy said...

Creamy Goat Cheese is my favorite cheese. Try it with Raisans as an appetizer. And then eat a 16 oz ribeye steak with a spicy Napa Cabernet. It is a Religious experience. Vegans fall like flies.

Chuck said...

This Journal editorial column was even more brilliant. From yesterday's paper:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-subsidy-as-shameful-as-they-come-1464215097

DanTheMan said...

>>I say we convert cheese to ethanol. Surely that will make economic sense.

MM for the win!!!


Unless Sanders decides this is part of his new energy plan...

Birkel said...

wholelottasplainin':

I am in favor of deregulation of farming. Government-created problems should be reduced.

Leviathan must be destroyed.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Can't it be fermented into ethanol and added to gasoline?

mockturtle said...

I'm certainly doing my part.

traditionalguy said...

Jimmy Carter said peanut butter makes ethanol too. But since Fracking got going, no energy shortages exist for the next thousand years. So maybe food should be eaten. It is Traditional, you know.

Quaestor said...

Vegans fall like flies.

See this and never eat plants again.

robother said...

We already convert cheese to methane: we just need modifications to our cars to use it to power them.

Brando said...

I'm willing to do my part, in fact I already am. You're welcome, America!

/need a parade for the cheese eaters.

Original Mike said...

Blogger Ignorance is Bliss said..."I bet socialism could fix this problem. It has a very solid track record of eliminating gluts of food and other consumer products."

Thread winner!

To implement your plan, we merely need to elect Bernie president. Four years should do the trick. If there's still cheese left, give him another four to finish the job. We can do this, America!

cubanbob said...

Better still just abolish the Department of Agriculture.

Fernandinande said...

Massive cheese causing problems.

Won't someone think of the cheese eating surrender monkeys?

Original Mike said...

Instead of redeeming Treasury bonds for cash (which requires more borrowing), we could pay off the bond holders in cheese. Solves the debt and cheese problems in one fell swoop.

dreams said...

A true free market is the obvious solution, yeah.

rhhardin said...

Kraft extra sharp cheddar, often on deep sale, isn't very sharp.

rhhardin said...

We pay Treasury bodn holders in Treasury bonds. They're usually rolled over.

rhhardin said...

The problem with Treasury bonds is the interest, not the principal.

Anglelyne said...

Quaestor: Is cheese technology beyond us, the only nation whose citizens have walked on the Moon?

A question I have pondered often. American cheese is such an underachiever, what's up with that? Is the possibility of delicious and distinctive regional American cheese strangled in its cradle by flavor and texture destroying regulations? Or did we just become a mass society before our very own cheese terroir had had enough time to develop? (See also: what ruined the flavor of our once succulent pork? Fat phobics or factory farms or some combination thereof?)

The only domestic Stilton producer I know of insists (insists, mind you) on polluting their cheese with embedded fruit.

Don't even get me started on that nonsense. (Even the local importers in my neck of the woods sometimes stock only the "polluted" versions of favorite English cheeses. Mercifully, they carry unsullied Stilton.)

Sebastian said...

"Creamy Goat Cheese is my favorite cheese. Try it with Raisans as an appetizer. And then eat a 16 oz ribeye steak with a spicy Napa Cabernet. It is a Religious experience" We should do dinner sometime. If you promise not to bring up Trump.

Once upon a time, the U.S. had a secret weapon to deal with "excess" supply, the price mechanism. Time to take it out of mothballs.

rhhardin said...

Homemade velveeta.

walter said...

Quaestor said...
The flaw in American capitalism is the fact that it encourages producers to compete more about price than variety, which is why the typical store has nine brands of shredded mozzarella and no fontina.
---
Immune to demand somehow?

Original Mike said...

"Kraft extra sharp cheddar, often on deep sale, isn't very sharp."

Cheddar isn't any good until it's at least 4 years old.

Original Mike said...

"We pay Treasury bodn holders in Treasury bonds. They're usually rolled over."

That's the bond holder's choice, right? They can't force you to take another bond when the bond matures (can they?).

buwaya said...

"The flaw in American capitalism is the fact that it encourages producers to compete more about price than variety, which is why the typical store has nine brands of shredded mozzarella and no fontina.
---
Immune to demand somehow?"

This, the dysfunction of the cheese market, is obviously a failure of capitalism and state intervention is the better model. The French, for instance, maintain an enormously wider variety of regional cheese available to consumers, as a result of market controls, farm supports, and their own flavor of anti-trust. The cost is much more expensive cheese on the whole.

buwaya said...

As for technology -
Making Stilton in a factory is quite a stretch goal.
Frankly, much less difficult cheeses are still beyond the reach of the US cheese industry.
The quality of the domestic versions of such Italian staples such as Parmesan, Romano and Asiago is pathetic. These are things that the Italians produce in industrial quantities.
Even the Argentines make much better Parmesan (though still not up to Italian standards).

Terry said...

After Bernie is elected, there will be just one type of cheese available at the store: Government Cheese. Only party officials will have access to 'luxury cheeses' like swiss, cheddar, and colby.
The expertise that Bernie uses to know how many brands of underarm deodorant consumers really need surely extends to dairy products!

LYNNDH said...

Doesn't it matter just what kind of cheese we have a glut of?

Anglelyne said...

buwaya: This, the dysfunction of the cheese market, is obviously a failure of capitalism and state intervention is the better model. The French, for instance, maintain an enormously wider variety of regional cheese available to consumers, as a result of market controls, farm supports, and their own flavor of anti-trust. The cost is much more expensive cheese on the whole.

How come they get Cantal and Saint-Felicien out of their ag-market meddling, and all we get is high-fructose corn syrup and ethanol scams?

Btw, is it really "much more" expensive? It always struck me (anecdotal tourist observation only) that French cheese in France is pretty damned affordable, particularly considering the quality of the product. Or do you mean "much more", in the sense of the hidden costs of ag supports? At any rate, now I'm curious and will have to go check out some froggy supermarket web sites and price compare.

johns said...

duh. it's the milk price support problem:
"The Dairy Price Support Program is the United States federal program that maintains a minimum farm price for milk used in the manufacture of dairy products. USDA indirectly assures a minimum price for milk by purchasing any cheddar cheese, nonfat dry milk, and butter offered to it by dairy processors at stated prices."
Most milk is for cheese (8 lbs of milk for 1 lb of cheese). Artificially high milk prices equals high cheese production, which is more or less guaranteed to be purchased.

exhelodrvr1 said...

People eat less cheese when the Packers aren't doing as well.

exhelodrvr1 said...

It's a bit runny ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT3OQECSDoQ

traditionalguy said...

OK Sebastian. No Trump steaks for you. Just aged Private Reserve Omaha Steaks, heart of the prime rib, ribeyes. And for desert, their Caramel Apple Tarts.

That's what we send out to the young folks at Christmas. It is too expensive for us.

buwaya said...

"How come they get Cantal and Saint-Felicien out of their ag-market meddling, and all we get is high-fructose corn syrup and ethanol scams?"

Excellent question. I think their weasels are far better educated and trained weasels than the local variety, and probably are more moral weasels, as weasels go. They do have an institutional structure with an elite (les enarques) that is careerist, lacks US revolving doors, and is guaranteed smart.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_nationale_d%27administration

Their problem, along with a lot of other problems of course, is that they have far too much of it.
Given that, theirs works much better than the US Federal bureaucracy.
This probably goes some way to explaining why the US gets uninspiring cheese.

mikee said...

I, for one, look forward to President Clinton saying farewell to the government support of large agribusiness through price support programs and other big-farm welfare they do not need, nor deserve.

Oh, who am I kidding, she'll spend any amount of other people's money to gain one cheese slice's worth of political power.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

rhardin: "The problem with Treasury bonds is the interest, not the principal.

No, the problem with Treasury bonds is the principle.

buwaya said...

France - monthly wholesale prices
http://www.clal.it/en/index.php?section=formaggi_francesi

Its funny that they trade in commodity volumes of cheeses that in the US are in the specialty section.

Looking at the cheapest thing here, 4.80 Euro for a kg of French Emmental, or $2.44/lb

US wholesale for Cheddar (this site only quotes wholesale Chaeddar - $1.38/lb
http://www.cheesereporter.com/prices.htm

So I don't know how it goes apples-to-apples US vs France. However, Polish Cheddar is quite cheap indeed, at $1.15/lb

Birches said...

You all are going to have to eat my portion too. Number Five has a milk protein sensitivity so I'm dairy free for the duration of nursing. No cheese is painful.

buwaya said...

I am blown away - German wholesale cheese prices, for Edam and Gouda, are way below US wholesale cheddar. Latest quotes -
Edam - $1.01/lb
Gouda - $1.02/lb

Compare vs $1.38 for American Cheddar.

One is tempted into an arbitrage play. Someone should be flooding the US market with dumped high quality (though bland) German cheese.

Another takeaway, from the European price charts - cheese prices have been collapsing everywhere. Whatever the article says about US cheese gluts, one can probably say the same about the Europeans. Its a global cheese depression.

Sebastian said...

"Just aged Private Reserve Omaha Steaks, heart of the prime rib, ribeyes. And for desert, their Caramel Apple Tarts." Hmm. Almost worth the sacrifice of partial anonymity . . .

dreams said...

Dairy products probably cause heart disease too.

Laslo Spatula said...

Life-size Sex Dolls made from cheese.

For cheese-fuckers.

Obviously.

Problem solved.

I am Laslo.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Couldn't they make ice cream instead?

Terry said...

My dream: a Trump-Sanders Unity ticket.
Each month, every citizen shall receive the bounty of America: a package, delivered by an agent of the US government, containing three luscious Trump Steaks (TM) and four pounds of Bernie's select Government Cheese.
Peace! Work! Steak and Cheese!

Birkel said...

dreams:

That probably is doing too much work.

Rocco said...

Quaestor said: "Is cheese technology beyond us, the only nation whose citizens have walked on the Moon?"

And the moon is made of green cheese. Coincidence? I think not. It all ties together and shows the level of decline.

Rocco said...

Ignorance is Bliss said...
"Maybe we just need to import more French.

As an American of both French and Sicilian descent, I will be happy to do my part to consume more cheese.

Terry said...

Hmmm . . . A solution to the problem of excess cheese has already been found. According to NPR, the Swiss devised fondue in order to increase cheese consumption: http://n.pr/1U9EykB
Let's not reinvent the wheel here, people.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Could they use any cheese in Venezuela, do you think?
That'd be a sea voyage worth writing about: the freedom cheese barge!

Terry said...

Blogger HoodlumDoodlum said...
Could they use any cheese in Venezuela, do you think?

No cheese for oil!

wholelottasplainin' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wholelottasplainin' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wholelottasplainin' said...

I am blown away - German wholesale cheese prices, for Edam and Gouda, are way below US wholesale cheddar. Latest quotes -
Edam - $1.01/lb
Gouda - $1.02/lb

***********

I don't think you understand what you are implying:

http://www.clal.it/en/?section=confronto_formaggi2

If you look at the graph, Edam in the wholesale market in May 2016, cost 2,182 Euros per metric ton, In English tons, that's 1983 Euros per ton, or 0.992 Euros/pound.

At today's exchange rate of 1.12 dollars per Euro that's $1.12 per pound. Close to your claim.

BUT---a ton of cheese that has to be cut up and reduced to much smaller pieces, wrapped, weighed, labeled and distributed to supermarkets, which then have to incur their own costs in stocking it, placing it in their data bases, etc. adds a lot of cost top that $1.12/pound, given that almost all those activities involve expensive LABOR.

I'm in Europe frequently, and buy cheese all the time. Cheese prices there are cheaper than the imported products here. But there is NO WAY supermarkets are gouging their European customers as much as you imply, for a dietary staple.

(I think I got it right on the 3rd try!)

Quaestor said...

This, the dysfunction of the cheese market, is obviously a failure of capitalism and state intervention is the better model.

Buwaya, no state intervention is required. In fact there is likely to be as much if not more state intervention in the ostensibly capitalist United States diary industry than in socialist-leaning France. Artisanal cheese made from whole unpasteurized milk is very difficult to market here. There are some Amish dairymen in my neighborhood who make and sell such cheeses, but because of state intervention they can't sell it except through the weekly farmer's market meet.

American corporations are highly skilled at creating demand for products most people have no prior knowledge of. The whole tech market depends on this. The fact that mass-market stores have little variety to offer is a failure of capitalism — specifically a segment of capitalism known as marketing.

To your other point. Cheesemaking is not rocket science; it isn't even brain surgery. It's biochemistry for the most part, with some mycology on the side. Just like anything other product it can be made more abundantly and it lower costs through industrial methods if the will to do so exists.

buwaya said...

wholelottaspainin,

But the wholesale May 2016 price of German Edam is 1988/ton. You are citing the Polish May 2016 price.

And I am comparing against US wholesale prices, quoted in cheesereporter, which are quoted in $/lb, but they are wholesale regardless, for bulk cheese.

So I am comparing wholesale vs wholesale, no retail markups and especially no VAT. What the Euro consumer or the US consumer sees is not relevant.

buwaya said...

"Buwaya, no state intervention is required."

I make joke, comrade.

As for why the US has bad cheese, I don't think it has all that much to do with the government as with US dietary customs. US populations aren't used to proper cheese like the Euros are. Its like marketing cheese in Shanghai.

Paco Wové said...

"US populations aren't used to proper cheese like the Euros are"

But why? The US is made up (well, until recently) of descendants of those cheese-loving Euros. Why are we willing to put up with rubbery Wisconsin snot-cheese when our ancestors ate the finest flaky Cheddar?

Marc Puckett said...

Who does buy the awful Stilton e.g. with blueberries, and why? There was some Oregon-made goat's milk cheese in the case a few weeks ago produced with mushroom in it: it sounded so nasty I bought a couple of ounces to experiment. Never again, but it wasn't inedible.

buwaya said...

"Why are we willing to put up with rubbery Wisconsin snot-cheese when our ancestors ate the finest flaky Cheddar?"

I don't know. This is one of the many mysteries waiting for some clever kids at Oberlin to figure out, should they ever decide to do something useful for mankind and solve interesting problems.

Harold Montgomery said...

Government cheese for everyone!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Laslo Spatula said...

Life-size Sex Dolls made from cheese.

I'm thinking swiss...

David said...

It's always tough when you realize that your product is a commodity.

Apple runs full tilt just to stay a step or two ahead of the commodity dragon.

Production up. Supply exceeds demand. Prices down.

Prices down for a while. Production drops. Demand exceeds supply. Prices increase.

That's how all commodities work. The trick is to avoid becoming a commodity. The worst is when your product is/becomes a commodity and you do not realize that fact.

It's simple, but not easy.

Original Mike said...

"Why are we willing to put up with rubbery Wisconsin snot-cheese when our ancestors ate the finest flaky Cheddar?"

WE aren't, but you, apparently, are. Nothing younger than four years old.

Anglelyne said...

Original Mike: WE aren't, but you, apparently, are. Nothing younger than four years old.

So, which American brands of good cheddar are you talking about? Sure, it's easy to find excellent cheddar in American grocery stores - English, Irish, Kiwi, all freely available, even in darkest Flyoveria. American cheddar with decent taste and texture? I've found one locally available, but it's not as good as the imports, and not cheaper, either.

As an aspiring cheese patriot, I am eager for recommendations.

Rusty said...

Laslo wins @ 4;09

Original Mike said...

@Anglelyne - We buy Brennan's which is a local concern. I believe the cheese is made in New Glarus WI. If you don't live in the area, I can't help you.

Original Mike said...

BTW, the Brennan's cheddar is interesting in that they sell the same cheese at several different ages. Flakey comes with age. At about 5 years it becomes impossible to slice without it coming apart, making it unsuitable for cheeseburgers.

Original Mike said...

For apple pie, I like the 10 year old.

Anglelyne said...

Original Mike: Num, those cheeses do look good. If I'm ever driving through Wisconsin...though they do seem to do some shipping. (I'll overlook those "flavored cheddar" abominations.)

We like "cheese gradients" (same cheese at three different ages) for dessert; they appear to have more than enough aged varieties to put a nice one together.

Thanks for the rec.

Original Mike said...

Ubetcha.