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Cheese and Veggie Skewer

As Americans closely scrutinize how every hard-earned dollar is spent, why are their tax dollars going to fund USDA programs that both encourage healthy eating and push high-fat cheese down their throats?

This huge contradiction is the center of a recent New York Times article by Micheal Moss, entitled While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales. Moss points out that while the USDA is recommending a diet lower in saturated fat, it is also behind the Dairy Management program, which actively promotes the consumption of dairy products.

Between 11 and 12 percent of the calories Americans eat every day come from saturated fat, many in the form of high-fat cheese. With the average American eating 33 pounds of cheese per year, the USDA knows there is a problem with the amount of cheese Americans consume. 

The USDA encourages Americans to eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products through the Food Pyramid program and First Lady Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, warning Americans to limit their saturated fat intake to 7 percent of their daily calories. 

At the same time, the Dairy Management program is partnering with fast food restaurants to find new and creative ways to sell more high-fat, high-sodium, cheese-based menu items! These advertising campaigns are actually authorized by the secretary of agriculture.

Recently, Dairy Management teamed up with Dominos Pizza to promote cheesier pizzas like the Wisconsin which contain 40 percent more cheese. One quarter of a medium, thin-crust Wisconsin contains almost an entire day’s serving of saturated fat! 

At the same time the USDA, through offers the following advice “Make your pizza a veggie with toppings like mushrooms, peppers and onions. Ask for whole-wheat crust and half the cheese.”

They have also been working with Taco Bell to push their steak quesadilla. The USDA proudly reports that it contains eight times more cheese than other options on the menu.

The partnership between Dairy Management and fast food runs much deeper. In a 2007 report to Congress, the Dairy Management program noted that it worked with fast food chains like Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Burger King to develop pizzas and cheeseburgers that make cheese the focal point, noting that this contributed to a 30 million pound increase in cheese sales!

Americans need to stop funding this hypocrisy and start making informed choices about healthy ways to include cheese in their diets.