Monday, May 13, 2013

What's In Your Cheese?

If you're buying a bag of shredded cheese, what do you think is in your bag?  If you guessed cheese, you're wrong.  Well, I mean, yes, there is some cheese in your bag, but its certainly not only cheese.  In fact, check out these photos I snapped at the grocery store the other day of various national brands of shredded cheese:


Did you get to those last few ingredients and say to yourself, but that's not cheese?  I know I did. 

Here's what Sargento had to say when asked, "ingredients listed on the shredded cheese packages include powdered cellulose, calcium carbonate and potato starch. What are those?"

Their answer: "Powdered cellulose is a white, odorless, tasteless, totally natural powder made from cellulose, a naturally occurring component of most plants. It won’t absorb moisture because of its fibrous, non-gel structure. When added to shredded cheese, cellulose prevents the cheese from sticking together. Calcium carbonate and potato starch are also natural ingredients. They pass through your body as any food does. They’re not harmful. Sargento sprinkles very small amounts of these anti-caking agents on all varieties of our shredded cheeses, which helps ensure our cheese is easier for consumers to use." (link)

What they failed to tell you, is that while cellulose may be a naturally occurring substance, this 'odorless, tasteless, totally natural powder' is extracted from wood chips or newspaper by boiling it.  YUMMY!  Tell me again why you're paying for an 'odorless, tasteless, totally natural powder?'

Oh, and did they tell you exactly where calcium carbonate is naturally occurring?  No?  Probably because it occurs in chalk, limestone, and marbles.  And just about the only good thing I can say about potato starch is that it at least comes from a real food.  That's not to say I'm in any way okay if it being in my cheese, but at least its something I consider edible. Even if it does 'pass through your body as any food does.'  Notice how they didn't say it was DIGESTED like food.

But, hey, at least 'they're not harmful' ingredients, though I suppose you can be the judge of that.

For comparison, here's the ingredients in some block cheese I just happened to have in the fridge:


Here we have a smoked cheddar and a hot pepper jack.  Notice what's in them; (aside from the peppers) it's milk, salt, and enzymes.  It doesn't even contain natamycin (mold inhibitor).  Because it has so much less surface area, mold won't grow nearly as quickly.  And that pepper cheese was even the cheapest store brand; nothing special. 

In the end buying shredded cheese will save you a minute or two each time you use it.  Not worth it, especially when you consider that using fresh shredded cheese doesn't just eliminate the chemicals, it also tastes SO MUCH BETTER because it's not all dried out and stale.  Plus those chemicals don't melt so your cheese will be so much more melty and gooey! 

Now that I'm salivating I'm going to go shred some cheese into a bowl and eat it over the trash can... yep, it's that good.


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