10 Things to Know About Processed Cheese [Cheese Miniseries Part 2/3]

Processed Cheese Slices

This is the second of three posts in our Cheese Miniseries. In part 1, we covered  12 basic cheese facts. In part 3, we’ll look inside the label of Kraft Singles.

In today’s segment, you’ll learn why not all cheese is created equal, and why many items at the supermarket are called “cheese product” and not simply “cheese”…

1. Processed cheese is also known as “process cheese”, “prepared cheese”, and “cheese food”.

2. Yes, it’s made with regular cheese, but with the addition of one or more of the following: whey, emulsifiers, milk, salts, preservatives, and food coloring.

3. The most popular processed cheese in the US is “American Cheese” although there is no one definition for that term. In most people’s minds, the term has come to mean a smooth, mild flavored cheese.

4. Processed cheese was invented over 100 years ago in Switzerland, but it took an American, James L. Kraft, to manufacture the first commercially available sliced processed cheese, just after World War 2.

5. Kraft Singles, a product introduced in 1947, was an instant hit and went on to become an American legend.

6. One of the biggest consumer benefits of processed cheese is “the melt”.  The use of emulsifiers in processed cheese lets it melt smoothly and uniformly when heated.

7. An important factor for food manufactures is the extended shelf life of processed cheese, due to the additives used.

8. Packaging each slice separately is a major convenience factor of processed cheese. If you’d like to skip chewing altogether,  processed cheese can be found in spray cans.

9. The top uses for processed cheese are cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

10. Legally, processed cheese cannot be sold as “cheese”. It needs to be called a “cheese food”. In fact, the FDA highly regulates how products can be labeled based on their cheese ingredient, moisture content, and milkfat:

Pasteurized process cheese - contains 100% cheese
Pasteurized process cheese food - contains at least 51% cheese.
Pasteurized process cheese product - contains less than 51% cheese.

In the third and last part of this miniseries, we’ll take a closer look at one such cheese product – Kraft Singles.

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  • Judysimon1

    I really only need to know one thing about processed cheese…it is yucky!

  • http://sehacecamino.com Nancy Cavillones

    When I buy sliced american cheese from the deli, it doesn’t have that slimy, gooey texture that individually wrapped singles have. What is the difference between those cheeses (say, Boars Head or Land o Lakes versus Kraft Singles)?

    • Anonymous

       The sliced American from the deli is formed into a loaf:  singles are literally shaped inside the wrapper, extruded and wrapped in a semiliquid state and chilled until (somewhat) firm.

      • http://sehacecamino.com Nancy Cavillones

        That’s gross. Thanks for the clarification. 

        • Katiemitcho

          Boars head has no artificial color or preservatives it is one of the highest quaility meat and cheese venders in America

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  • Cyclops

    10. Legally, processed cheese cannot be sold as “cheese”.

    Not true, as stated fairly quickly after that in the story itself

    Pasteurized process cheese – contains 100% cheese

    And it can be called cheese because it is cheese. This is the real american cheese. It’s different than cheddar or colby but it melts well and is good for burgers. This is generally sold as deli deluxe or some sort of american deluxe. The key is that the packaging must say pasteurized process cheese. PERIOD. Cheese must be the last word. Cheese food, cheese product, cheese spread, “made with real cheese” are all not cheese. I don’t know what they are but they aren’t cheese.

    And, by the way, real american cheese is quite good.

  • Pee

    So right

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