Cheddar Interdependence: European Invasion Causes U.S. Cheese Glut

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June 1, 2016

How does a political crisis in Asia contribute to a cheese glut in the United States? The answer involves economics, geography, a political spat, and an undeclared war.

In 2014, Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine, an action that made headlines around the world. The European Union instituted sanctions against Russia. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin instituted a ban on imports of cheese from Europe. Makers of cheese from Europe then turned to the U.S.

Then, American importers filled the gap. At the same time, however, American cheese producers were busy producing a record amount of milk and cheese. As well, the American government was continuing its policy of urging its citizens to eat more cheese.

As a result, the American supply of cheese is quite large. Commercial cold-storage freezers around the country collectively are storing a record amount of cheese. Some kinds of cheese, like cheddar, can be stored for a few years and still be edible. Other kinds of cheese, like feta, can be stored for only a a few months.

So, just as before, the American government is now urging its citizens to eat more cheese. In fact, experts estimate that it would take each American eating an extra three pounds of cheese a year to put a hole in the current cheese supply. Estimates are that each American currently eats 36 pounds of cheese a year. (By comparison, the average French citizen eats 57 pounds of cheese a year. But the French don't have this cheese glut problem.)

In geographic terms, the story involves countries from Europe and North America. In political terms, the story involves actions of governments against each other. In economic terms, the story involves interdependence.

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