Since 1970 the amount of cheese consumed per person in this great nation has tripled. That’s according to a report card (pdf) released this week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The overall dairy numbers paint a not-terrible picture in terms of fat content, with Americans eating less full-fat ice cream and more low-fat yogurt. But the rise in cheese consumption—from 8 pounds per person per year in 1970 to 23 pounds in 2010—brings the dairy grade down to a C-. (The grades are subjective, but are meant to show how our present eating habits stack up to an ideal diet.)
The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, an industry group, treats the rise in cheese-eating cheerfully. They attribute it, in part, to the fact that we’re eating out more and, surprise surprise, restaurants love putting cheese in and on our food.
But a New York Times article from 2010 offers a more startling analysis: the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping restaurants put more cheesy foods on their menus even as other parts of the agency encourage Americans to eat fewer saturated fats.
The quasi-governmental Dairy Management agency was established to boost milk, and cheese, consumption, the Times reports:
Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese…
In a series of confidential agreements approved by agriculture secretaries in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.
Those restaurants, according to Dairy Management’s website, include McDonald’s, Domino’s and Taco Bell. Another reason, then, to resist the Cheesy Gordita Crunch: it has a slightly nefarious aftertaste.
Via The Atlantic
Top image by George Ruiz via Flickr