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What’s the Deal with American Cheese?

The divisive dairy product demystified

By Leslie WritesPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2023
Photo by Leslie Writes

I was recently scrolling the Vocal Top Stories and came upon this delightful culinary odyssey, by Rasma Raisters, highlighting the best cheese dishes from around the world. I was immediately hungry, but also inspired to write about the neon orange specimen native to my homeland. I am talking, of course, about American cheese.

It is a cheese born of science, an unholy gelatinous frankencheese, that according to our own Food and Drug Administration, cannot legally be classified as cheese. For that esteemed distinction, a product must contain more than 50% milk. On the label, manufacturers must refer to American cheese as a “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”

As is true with many American products, this cheese was developed by the Kraft company as a cheaper substitute for the real thing. But American cheese is not without its merits. It melts into a thick sauce which makes a great topping and filling for a variety of treats such as nachos, burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

In order to achieve the product’s consistent melt, the makers combine a selection of mild cheeses (think cheddar and colby). Then they heat and homogenize the mixture, adding emulsifying agents among other less pronounceable ingredients.

American cheese works in mysterious ways and like the pantheon of ancient gods, it comes to us in a variety of forms, each to fulfill its own dark purpose.

  • Kraft Singles - They call them singles because they are not sliced. Each one is molded into a perfect square, then individually wrapped in plastic for maximum shelf life. I remember my grandpa used to unwrap one and toss it to his German Shepherd as a treat. She’d snatch it in mid-air, then suck it down like a big orange noodle.
  • Velveeta - This variation comes in a 32 oz. block. It is good for melting over vegetables to disguise them from picky eaters or combining with salsa to make a rather inauthentic “queso dip.” I can’t imagine eating it cold.
  • Easy Cheese - A shelf stable cheese that is squirted from a can onto crackers or directly into your mouth if that’s your thing. I do not recommend this one. It may be a novelty, but the price is your dignity.

You can’t talk about American cheese without mentioning "government cheese.” The US government began producing processed cheese to feed the military during World War II. When the war was over, they foisted the cheese onto the public schools. The purpose of the program was to maintain milk prices when government subsidies created a surplus. As part of the ongoing program, cheese was stored in hidden underground warehouses throughout the country, like the Fort Knox of fromage.

In the 1980’s, the Regan administration was criticized for hoarding all this cheese, while simultaneously reducing food stamp benefits to low-income Americans struggling with food insecurity. In response, Regan released all of the cheese. The first round of cheese to be distributed was moldy from sitting in the warehouse too long.

As you might guess, American cheese is not the healthiest choice, with its high fat and sodium, plus preservatives. Nutrition experts argue that the prevalence of American cheese along with other cheap processed foods has contributed to the obesity epidemic, particularly among low-income families.

The popularity of American cheese has fallen slightly over the years. My family eats it occasionally in one form or another, but we prefer cheddar, munster or Swiss for sandwiches. When we can afford it, our fridge contains natural cheeses from around the world. I never met a cheese I didn’t like.

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About the Creator

Leslie Writes

Another struggling millennial. Writing is my creative outlet and stress reliever.

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Comments (43)

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  • Scott Christenson2 months ago

    It definitely works in grilled cheese sandwiches;)

  • MARIE ODEMS 4 months ago


  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    Cheese. What preservatives??? Great article. Preserves are in everything...we gotta make our own food. But, who has the time.

  • ThankGod Atama4 months ago

    Good information keep it up

  • Great information! Most don`t read the labels to see if it`s real cheese or not as it definitely states cheese product which has a blend of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.

  • Amjad Ateih Dib4 months ago

    it is a nice one continue

  • Heather Hubler4 months ago

    I loved this follow up to Rasma's wonderful article. And I find American cheese disgusting. I've never really bought it and didn't grow up on it. I do like velveeta in a dip though...yum!

  • Kendall Defoe 4 months ago

    I have never had Velveeta, and I avoid the other variants on your list, but this was quite informative. Interesting TS!

  • Parwez Ali4 months ago

    hey, you are a dog lover. so read this article about top 10 best dog breeds - > https://vocal.media/petlife/best-dog-breeds

  • Great job!!! Congratulations on your top story. I have never been a fan of American cheese. I refuse to eat it. It is the lowest common denominator of cheese as far as I am concerned.

  • Peter Eberere 4 months ago

    Awesome congratulations on your top story

  • Muniba Khan4 months ago

    Outstanding story and helpful

  • Real Eco-Friendly4 months ago

    Your Story is very interesting about cheese. As a newcomer to this form, I hope you will take the time to read my work and offer me your valuable advice. Your guidance would be greatly appreciated, and I am grateful for any insights you can provide. Thank you in advance for your support.

  • Caroline Craven4 months ago

    Ha! I never met a cheese I didn’t like!! Same, same! Great article.

  • Loryne Andawey4 months ago

    Awesome! Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Dana Crandell4 months ago

    I'm glad you emphasized the melt factor. It's the only thing that behaves perfectly on a grilled cheese sandwich and that may be the only justification for its existence.😂 Congratulations on Top Story!

  • D. ANDERSON4 months ago


  • Paul Stewart4 months ago

    yay! congrats on TS, Leslie!

  • Dana Stewart4 months ago

    My first thought was ‘this can’t top the Humble chicken nugget’ article but alas, you topped it. Fun and humorous. I must admit, I like Velveeta cold, a big wedge with Doritos. Congratulations on your cheesy Top Story. 🎉

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Wonderful!!! Loving your story!!!💖💖💕Your story reminded me of the time my son, who was in elementary achool, announced, "Mom stop using fake cheese!" Congratulations on T S too!!!😊💕

  • Ben Shepherd4 months ago

    Well written. Totally agree on your take. America's love affair with this 'cheese' is inappropriate. "Unholy" and "frankencheese" are great descriptors!

  • Congratulations on your Top Story❤️💯‼️🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊

  • Real Poetic4 months ago

    This made me so hungry! But not for American cheese lol the real cheese. Great job.

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    This is a great article. Congrats on the TS. Now excuse me while I go fry up a grilled cheese.

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