Cheese Wars

I’m proposing this as a follow-up to filmmaker Anat Baron’s exceptional 2009 feature length documentary Beer Wars. In BW, Baron explores the vibrant-but-fledgling world of small, American craft brewers who are trying to carve out a livelihood, and you know, generally make good things, despite mounds of bureaucratic red-tape and the well-connected corporate “beer” makers (i.e., your MillerCoors, your Anheuser-BuschInBevsSterlingCooperDraperPryces) who would rather they didn’t.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Hey! Why you picking on my Budweiser Black Crowns, you hipster bully?” And you have a point; we all should be free to consume whatever suits our fancy. I’m not a Luddite, or a soda czar. In a weird way, I stand with you and your right to patronize mass-produced crap. I mean, we’ve been doing it since the turn of the Industrial Revolution, so why stop now? After all, the Industrial Revolution meant better living standards and longer lifespans and yay!

But it also conditioned us to become a nation of short-term, self-indulgent spenders willing to throw our shekels at every Model T and tract home that came our way. America is nothing if not a nation of consumers–hell, it’s our answer to nearly everything–and our capitalistic empire relies on people spending billions on bland, vanilla products they don’t need, and in many cases, aren’t good for them. And American industries, and the corporate executives who run them, know this. And they love it.

This is cheese
This is cheese

But with the rise of a new class of successful entrepreneurs who care as equally about their bottom line as they do about the quality of the product they’re making, American corporations are getting a little territorial.

So territorial, they’re coming for our cheese. And they have helpers. According to Forbes,

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

The FDA’s decision will not only harm American cheese makers, but may also bring a halt to the importation of artisan cheeses from abroad

Corporate cheese makers like Leprino and Kraft will be able to weather this regulatory storm — they don’t make cheese, they manufacture cheese.

So the FDA has decided that real cheese is dangerous, and needs to be outlawed. Fine. But they’re going about it in an illegal manner. Per the same article, agency rule books require that any change to best practices and standards be subject to a “notice and comment-rule making” process, which is supposed to work something like this:

  • The FDA says, “Whoa, you fromage-loving hippies. No more wooden boards. They’re killing our children and destroying our homes.”
  • Cheese makers are given the opportunity to provide counter evidence (i.e., they’re afforded due process)
  • The FDA takes their input into consideration, and only after deliberating issues a final verdict

    This is not cheese
    This is not cheese

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the FDA is ruling by fiat, and inviting a legal battle that will surely cost independent cheesemongers millions to fight–all to have the right to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Meanwhile, as Forbes points out, corporate “cheese manufactures” get to sit back, relax, munch on a Lunchable, and rake in their billions.

Man. It’s enough to make you need a stiff drink.


Crystal Hubbard

Crystal Hubbard is a freelance writer / producer, and a Smash Cut Culture contributor. She was a finalist for the New York Television Festival Fox Comedy script contest in 2011 and 2013, and is a Taliesin Nexus and Nexpressions alum. In 2012, she interned at Disruption Entertainment, and is a current Fellow with the Moving Picture Institute. She occasionally tweets (but mostly lurks) @cnhubbard, and sometimes uses Instagram @bare_cupboard.

  • Matt Edwards

    Do not mess with cheese. I may drink Coors Light almost exclusively, but I’ll drop a pretty dime on some good gorgonzola, manchego or tallegio anytime. Is it time to start a #hashtag campaign… #BringBackOurCheese ?

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