Saturday, August 8, 2009

Local cheese

I love cheddar cheese. I eat it on sandwiches, crackers, and tacos. In recent years, Americans have been finding ways to consume more and more cheese; some analysts attribute much of this trend to gourmet pizza.

One might begin to be concerned for the health of America's arteries. However, American cheese consumption runs well behind many European countries, often countries with better average health. The data in the chart above is from 2003, but it shows the typical American--eating 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cheese annually--coming in well behind the typical German, Greek, or Italian. Love of cheese clearly crosses palate boundaries. Other data shows that Europeans also drink more milk and enjoy more butter than Americans too, yet suffer from less heart disease.

European food culture seems to have evolved over the centuries into cheese consumption patterns more sustainable than ours. As a result, some celebrate the rise of American artisan cheese makers. Skagit County is home to two small dairy creameries--Samish Bay and Golden Glen, located within a few miles of each other. But most cheese in the region comes from creameries run by Tillamook Cheese and Darigold, and this cheese is practically being given away. Wholesale prices remain stuck at just over one dollar a pound; dairy farmers would be happy to see a stronger cheese culture emerge a little more quickly in the United States.

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