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American cheese facts for kids

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Grilled cheese with soup
Grilled cheese sandwich with white bread, American cheese, and tomato soup

American cheese is a type of processed cheese. It can be orange, yellow, or white in color, is mild and salty in flavor, has a medium-firm consistency, and has a very low melting point. It originated in the 1910s, and is a common staple in many American dishes.

History

Wrapped American cheese slices
Wrapped American cheese slices

British colonists made cheddar cheese soon upon their arrival in North America. By 1790, American-made cheddar's were being exported back to England.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first known usage of "American cheese" as occurring in the Frankfort, Kentucky, newspaper The Guardian of Freedom in 1804. The next usage given is in 1860 by Charles Dickens in his series The Noncommercial Traversal.

In 1878, the total export of American cheese was 355 million pounds per year, with an expected growth to 1,420 million pounds.

2019-02-06 21 06 13 A packet of Kraft Singles White American cheese still in its packaging in Dunn Loring, Fairfax County, Virginia
A packet of Kraft Singles White American cheese

After patenting a new method for manufacturing processed cheese in 1916, James L. Kraft began marketing it in the late 1910s, and the term "American cheese" rapidly began to refer to the processed variety, instead of the traditional but more expensive cheddar's also made and sold in the US.

The taste and texture of different varieties of American cheese vary depending manufacturer. Yellow American cheese is seasoned and colored with annatto, while white American cheese does not contain annatto.

Manufacturing process

Processed cheese slices
Processed cheese slices

According to the US Standards of Identity for Dairy Products, part of the Code of Federal Regulations, to be labeled "American cheese" a processed cheese is required to be manufactured from cheddar cheese, colby cheese, washed curd cheese, or granular cheese, or any mixture of two or more of these.

Because its manufacturing process differs from "unprocessed" traditional cheeses, federal laws mandate that it be labeled as "processed American cheese" if made from combining more than one cheese, or "processed American cheese food" if dairy ingredients such as cream, milk, skim milk, buttermilk, cheese whey, or albumin from cheese whey are added.

2019-02-06 21 06 59 A single slice of Kraft Singles White American cheese on top of a single slice of Arnold Whole Grain 100% Wheat Bread in Dunn Loring, Fairfax County, Virginia
Kraft Singles White American cheese on top of a single slice of bread
McD-Bacon-Egg-Cheese-McGriddle
McD-Bacon-Egg-Cheese-McGriddle

The United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) publishes regulations for the manufacturing of processed American cheese.

Processed American cheese is packaged in individually wrapped slices, as unwrapped slices sold in stacks, or in un-sliced blocks. Individually wrapped slices are formed from processed cheese which hardens only between the wrapping; these slices, sold as "singles", are typically the least like traditional cheese. Blocks of American cheese are more similar to traditional cheese, and are sliced to order at deli counters.

Market size

Americans purchased about $2.77 billion worth of American cheese in 2018, but the popularity is falling, and, according to Bloomberg News, sales were projected to drop 1.6% in 2018. The average price for a pound of American was below $4 for the first time since 2011.

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