The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is trying to kill you. And according to a Nov. 6 expose in The New York Times their weapon of choice is cheese.
Last year the USDA gave $5.3 million to Dairy Management a non-profit dairy industry group that makes a living assaulting your arteries. The organization’s $140 million budget is also heavily financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry.
Dairy Management recently introduced a $12 million marketing campaign for Domino’s new line of “Wisconsin” pizzas which contain 40 percent more cheese. Dairy Management has previously partnered with fast food restaurants to develop Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites pizza Wendy’s “dual Double Melt sandwich concept” and Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger.
Uncle Sam wants you to eat more cheese because increased cheese consumption means more dough for the dairy industry. “If every pizza included one more ounce of cheese we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually boasted Thomas Gallagher, chief executive of Dairy Management.
But health experts warn that Americans should cut the cheese consumption. The modern American eats 30 pounds of cheese per year, a figure nearly triple the amount consumed in 1970. Cheese [is] the nation’s biggest source of saturated fat according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. High saturated fat intake can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The latter, in particular, is a tragedy. It turns out that cheese is fattening. If you want to look at why people are fat today it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption said Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Domino’s Wisconsin” pizza is especially deadly. A laboratory test of the “Wisconsin” found that one-quarter of a medium pie contains 430 calories. You would have to make nine— yes nine— trips up the CCB stairs to atone for the sin of eating merely two slices of this pizza.
A spokesperson for the USDA accurately observed that “[w]hen eaten in moderation and with attention to portion size cheese can fit into a low-fat healthy diet.” But more realistically we are all poorer and fatter in a world where taxpayer funding supports the dairy industry.
A healthy diet could include half a slice of Domino’s Wisconsin pizza or three bites of Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger. But who eats half a slice of pizza or only three bites of a cheeseburger? Furthermore the USDA measures the success of Dairy Management’s programs in pounds of cheese served. Under this metric “moderation” is not a moneymaker for the dairy industry group.
Ironically the USDA’s own Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion uses its budget of $6.5 million to promote healthy diets. This program— and our government’s overall “war on obesity”— is a joke. While it isn’t literally true that the USDA is trying to kill us25814 Americans die every year as a result of being overweight or obese according to a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and part of the blame lies on government support for food industry groups.
Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason Magazine points out that “Cheesegate” is not “some wacky one time accident where the [government’s] left hand momentarily lost track of what the right hand was stuffing into the mouth.”
From corn subsidies to food assistance programs to dietary recommendations government policies create harmful price incentives and distorted public health messages. Over $40 billion dollars in government subsidies to the corn industry make the “liquid poison” of high-fructose corn syrup artificially cheap. This June the USDA decided to buy $14 million dollars of excess dark-meat chicken from the market and ship the fatty meat directly to food banks school lunch programs and other food assistance programs. Even the dietary suggestions of the USDA food pyramid suspiciously correlate with the level of subsidies given to the represented food industries.
In effect our government subsidizes obesity. This result should not be surprising. It is naive to think that the “food police” act to improve public health. Food politics are a microcosm of the rest of politics— whereby government power is co-opted for the benefit of the most effective lobbies. The USDA’s support for Domino’s pizza is just another reason to reject big government cheese.