The United States of Cheese

When I scanned The New York Times website on Sunday, I—like most readers—was immediately distracted by this headline:

While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales.”

Apparently, when Domino’s Pizza sales were down last year, the USDA-funded marketing group Dairy Management helped Domino’s develop a new line of pizza with 40% more cheese. (The secret’s out—Americans love extra cheese!)

It seems the Department of Agriculture has been undercutting its own anti-obesity drive by promoting greater consumption of cheese, which, of course, is high in saturated fat. The mission of Dairy Management is to get dairy into Americans’ diets, and they often do this by getting people to eat more cheese (because, I’m guessing, it’s easier than getting people to drink more milk).

Through Dairy Management, the USDA has been peddling cheese to major nation-wide restaurant chains for years. The New York Times reports:

Consider the Taco Bell steak quesadilla, with cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella and a creamy sauce. “The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,” the Agriculture Department said in a report, extolling Dairy Management’s work — without mentioning that the quesadilla has more than three-quarters of the daily recommended level of saturated fat and sodium.


In 2007, the department highlighted Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites pizza, Wendy’s “dual Double Melt sandwich concept,” and Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger and TenderCrisp chicken sandwich. “Both featured two slices of American cheese, a slice of pepper jack and a cheesy sauce,” the department said.

These efforts, the department reported, helped generate a “cheese sales growth of nearly 30 million pounds.”

Well then. Good for cheese! And good for Dairy Management and dairy farmers—but is it good for taxpayers?

Essentially, public funds are being used to put more fat into American diets while different public funds are being used to convince Americans to eat less fatty foods. In a typical government bungle, competing special-interest-backed campaigns have compounded a waste of resources. Unbeknownst to them, taxpayers have been funding both sides of the food debate. Everyone loses–except cheese.

As usual, the cheese stands alone.