Why Low-Fat Cheese Tastes Like An Eraser

The New York Times

Oh, cheese. If I have any say in the matter, cheese will be a significant part of my last meal. The fattier, the saltier, the better. But not everyone agrees. In fact, in the last few years the cheese industry has been under enormous pressure to produce low-fat, less-salty products that appeal to consumers. Unfortunately, they haven't been that successful, and here's why: when you take the fat out, you essentially turn cheese into an eraser...

...or so says Gregory D. Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute in this New York Times article. Fat and salt are critical ingredients in cheese, way more than consumers realize. Salt controls moisture content and bacterial activity, acts as a preservative, and flavors the cheese as it ages, while fat determines texture (and a myriad of other things), so it's incredibly difficult to make a tasty, "cheese-like" cheese that's low in both. To put it bluntly: "If you really want to make bad cheese, make a low-fat, low-sodium one."

The National Salt Reduction Initiative aims to have a 5 percent sodium reduction in most cheeses by the end of this year and a 15 percent reduction by 2014. Will the industry be able to meet these goals? Only if they slowly lower the salt content of their products, so as not to turn off the general public. Mark Johnson, senior scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says it this way:

"If I gave you [a cheese with 10 percent less sodium], and gave you a full-sodium one, you'd know the difference... But if I didn't ever give you the higher one, and gave you the lower one, you'd go, 'Mmmmm, that's not bad.'"

What do you think about these lower-salt-lower-fat endeavors? Despite my love for cheese, I actually don't have it on a regular basis, which means when I do indulge, it has to be the real thing. Otherwise, I'd rather not eat it at all, you know? That's my opinion. What's yours?

Read More: Asked to Get Slim, Cheese Resists at The New York Times

Related: Why It's So Hard To Create a Truly Cheese-Like Vegan Cheese

(Images: BW Folsom/Shutterstock)