Bad Cheese, Good Cheese - It's all about money | Writing | Food Newsie

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Bad Cheese, Good Cheese - It's all about money

Bad Cheese, Good Cheese - It's all about money

It’s not everyday two stories about cheese come across the feed but here we go, and together, they serve to illustrate differences in thinking about economics or at least how food is presented to consumers in terms of money. In the United States, there’s A.N.D. the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics whose mission allows for paid plugs and sponsorship which landed them and Kraft in a sticky PR mess. In Italy, there’s Credito Emiliano (CredEm Bank) whose forward thinking found them looking to history to help cash-strapped farmers by allowing them to borrow against cheese, of all things!

Bad Cheese, Good Cheese - It's all about money

As of 2012, Kraft's reach to consumers extends beyond just the big logo impressed foods we find at the grocer. Kraft proudly provides all kinds of cheese-things, toppings, snacks, gums and chocolate. Putting their name next to "Kids Eat Right" just seems strange when you see the big picture.

Making the rounds in news everywhere filed under Ironic is Kraft aligning itself with the A.N.D. campaign called “Kids Eat Right.” It wasn’t just news organizations scratching their heads, pundits on morning shows, comedian Jon Stewart and doctors along with healthcare professionals quickly pounced on the branding they saw on Kraft’s American Cheese “Singles” touting the Kids Eat Right logo. The United States Food and Drug Administration qualifies cheese as something at market comprised of at least 51% actual cheese. Kraft’s Singles aren’t that. They’re labeled in the corner as processed cheese food. Linking this with a colorful and playful Kids Eat Right logo just didn’t sit right for long and the branding marriage is no more.

The three-year contract, however, remains intact. It’s a contract for sponsorship; so it’s not that Kraft earned the logo like a business can earn a Google Places sticker or Yelp sticker for the door letting you know that certain standards have been met; in true capitalist fashion (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Kraft bought permission to pair the two concepts: Fake cheese and kids eating good food. As the three-year contract runs – no word on the amount Kraft paid – the company has a massive number of labels they can kick the logo to. If it weren’t for the quick thinking of so many, most consumers might have convinced themselves into thinking that Kraft earned the label.

In terms of earning labels, that’s something that the rest of the world knows quite well. One product that earns a label is Parmesan cheese; specifically, Parmigiano-Reggiano from Regione Emilia-Romagna, Italy…

Bad Cheese, Good Cheese - It's all about money

Many sources provided this collage showing the location and features and logo of the region that specializes in authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Ranking second from last in the region economically, farmers are now able to bank on their crop to continue work for a better next couple years.

Long ago, the process of giving a lender your farm’s product to hold for aging in exchange for currency was a well-known practice. It made sense. Aged meats and cheeses could earn a value well over the cost to produce them and if the farmer became solvent in the meantime, they could buy it back at a fair price that left room for profit once at market. This meant the the lender and the borrower could both come out ahead.

The time scale for one such commodity, Parmigiano-Reggiano, was and still is, two years. CredEm Bank has introduced to their vaults, cheese caves. And in case you’re taking this lightly, the latest count is 430,000 parmesan wheels worth up to 190 million euros!

The process of aging cheese is one to be taken seriously and performed carefully. Banks, with the patience required of long-term lenders, are perfect candidates for the process. Rounds of cheese from the farm weigh in at 70 to 140-pounds and fetch about $5 bucks a pound. Slices of money from $350 to $520 per round can add up and help pay for future rounds. Once aged, the rounds can be sold back to the same farmer who can turn about a 17% profit at market or stay with the bank which hopes to turn a 20% profit. It’s not just a lender’s game; it’s fair and the money going around isn’t just for the appearances of good health like Kraft could be accused of. It’s an investment in a unique regional product from a community that’s still feeling the burn of tough economic times.

Cheese to the bank
Kids Eat Right logo pulled
430,000 wheels
Landscape image

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