What really goes into processed cheese?

06 June 2024, 15:00 PM
  • What's the deal with processed cheese? James Grant of No2 Pound Street explains the consequences of these highly processed products
What really goes into processed cheese?

How did we arrive to today with such a plethora of cheese? From block Cheddars to farmhouse PDO Cheddar, to highly processed questionable slices that only contain 51% cheese, and so-called American slices, which contain no cheese whatsoever.

In my opinion it’s a sorry situation that we find ourselves in - eating slices of oil. Especially as they are pretending to be something they’re not. How about the manufacturers sell these products for what they are? Slices of stabilised oil with colour and flavour added - would you buy that?

One of the most questionable ingredients used in these slices, in my opinion, is an ingredient called natamycin. This is an antifungal used to treat conjunctivitis, and when used in food can apparently disturb your gut microflora. Oh, and I see no conclusions can be drawn on the carcinogenic potential of natamycin, nice. I will let you draw your own opinions on the matter of American slices for your burgers and sandwiches. I, on the other hand, will decline such highly processed garbage.

Cheese indeed is one of the world’s first processed foods, with cooked meat coming in first, having been prepared some 1.5 million years ago, and the history of making bread going back well over 10,000 years. As humans continue to evolve many new innovations in food and beverage technology and processing have emerged, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

Cheese has been part of our diets at home and internationally for thousands of years. It was a ‘found food’ along with goats, wheat, and legumes in the Fertile Crescent, also known as the Levant. How was it found? Well, there is a lot of speculation, but I believe it would have been discovered along with the domestication of goats. Spilt milk with a lumpy creamy texture. This would have occurred after the spontaneous acidification from the natural cultures, turning it into a cottage cheese style consistency. Inquisitive as humans are, it would have been tasted and the rest, as they say, is history.

This new foodstuff formed part of the staple diet. In leaner times, the preservation of milk into cheese fed populations during the winter, with the harder cheeses prevailing as they would keep for a longer time. The use of rennet would have been discovered as a coagulant to easily split the curds from the whey, and produce a solid faster. Salt has been used for millennia as a preservative of many foods, including cheese. Recipes have evolved. The first cheeses were probably quite sour and salty like feta and cottage cheese. Our first recorded British cheese is Cheshire, which features in the Doomsday book of 1086.

We are learning that “we are what we eat, what they eat” can have serious consequences. What I mean is if you spray a field with synthetic fertiliser to grow feed for your livestock, which go on to make cheese or are reared for meat, you will ingest those fertilisers. The same applies to arable production. Natural fertiliser has been used for thousands of years and in my opinion should be the only way we farm. Nutrient-rich soil can only be naturally rich in nutrients without messing with the flora and fauna. We need to work with nature and not try to change it.

Ill-gotten gains are exactly that, ill. Our world populations are suffering with diseases and many allergies that we are now beginning to realise are a direct result of diet.

“We are what we eat, what they ate, what they sprayed” is so true. Eating cheese shouldn’t be about the profit, but about celebrating and being thankful for the great cheese being made by dairy farmers and producers who are connected to the soil, and those great people that only champion real cheese and brilliant produce.

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