The Canada-bashing coming from the White House lately will do nothing to help achieve my goal for U.S.-Canada relations. I want to see more Canadian cheese in the U.S., not less, and the heated rhetoric has me worried. I felt bad about the name-calling from our side, so I picked up a pound of aged Canadian Cheddar, just as a one-woman show of support.
Despite the North American Free Trade Agreement, the flow of cheeses between our two countries is as sluggish as a clogged drain. A few Canadian products dribble in, like the tasty two-year-old Red Leaf Cheddar (above) that I found at my local Whole Foods. Canada’s tariffs on U.S. cheeses are so high that most artisan producers can’t hope to break in.
Canada protects its dairy farmers with a quota system that keeps output down and prices high. Everybody knows the system is broken and unjust. The powerful dairy farmers enjoy stable incomes, but Canadian consumers pay way more for dairy products than they otherwise would. Adding another layer of protection, the tariff on cheeses from the U.S. can be as high as 270 percent.
The U.S. slaps Canadian cheeses with tariffs, too, albeit not as extreme. But they’re enough to make already-pricy Canadian cheese uncompetitive here. I’ve written about this impasse in the past. And of course, the U.S. is just as guilty of manipulating the market. The federal government subsidizes dairy farmers in ways that incentivize production, creating gluts of milk and cheese that the government buys back.
Enough politics. Time for a nice chunk of two-year-old Canadian Cheddar and a cold IPA. Red Leaf is a Saputo brand, and Saputo is a Montreal-based dairy giant, so this Cheddar is not an artisanal product. Nevertheless, it is well made and tasty, a rindless block Cheddar that’s easy on the budget and easy to like. The texture is super-creamy, the flavor mellow, with little to no acid bite. I get a smoky, bacon-like note in the finish. It should appeal to people who avoid sharp Cheddars, and it would make a great cheeseburger.
I’m not hopeful that North America will soon be a free-trade zone for cheese, but we can dream. In the meantime, let’s show Canada some love.
Cheese Class: United States of Cheese
Saturday, June 23
1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
25 North Street
Join me for this cheesy road trip as we sample world-class wheels from seven states. Thirty-five years into America’s artisan cheese renaissance, the nation is chockablock with amazing cheeses that win international awards. In this tasting class, I’ll introduce you to some of the creations I admire most. Vermont, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Oregon…who knows where we’ll go?