What’s Really in Velveeta?


Just in time for the Cheese Product Dip Event of the Year (ahem: Super Bowl) there’s a shortage and a recall on Velveeta.

It’s true. Americans love their fluorescent colored not-cheese cheese so much that there just may not be enough of it for Super Bowl weekend, and last week more than a million pounds of Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Singles were recalled because Kraft forgot to mention that they contained hydrolized soy protein. Yum.

This of course all begs the question: what is Velveeta and what’s in it?

As Kraft says, it “melts smooth and creamy for ultimate appeal.” Translation: it melts better than regular cheese because it’s not real cheese. Sure it has elements of cheese, but it’s like a cheese on genetically modified steroids.

There are elements of real cheese in Velveeta – you know, milk – but to call it actual cheese is a bit of a stretch, which is why it is labeled as a “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.” Say that five times fast.

The official list of ingredients: Milk, Water, Whey, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Alginate, Enzymes, Apocarotenal, Annatto, Cheese Culture.

Milk and water you have probably heard of. Here’s the thing: you shouldn’t need to add whey to a cheese, because whey is actually produced during the cheese making process (it’s the liquid that’s left after the milk has curdled and been strained). Then there are all the other additions, most of which are coloring or preserving agents. Basically it can’t be called real cheese because it has so many additives in it.

That’s a lot of ingredients for a product that normally only involves milk, a starter culture, rennet, and sometimes some salt.

So why are people so in love with Velveeta? It’s bright yellow (which for some reason has come to scream “cheese!”) and it melts. Really well. It was developed to do just that.

Kraft brought Velveeta to the market in 1928, a food product designed to “always melt perfectly.” Why get pesky regular cheese that melts in unpredictable ways when you can get a processed version that will do what you want it to? Nowadays, it’s lovingly referred to as Liquid Gold and brings in more than $500 million a year for Kraft.

If you’re not afraid of those little yellow slices, you should be. And, hey, the benefit of this so called shortage is that you’ll be required to eat the real stuff instead.

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Image: Jamie

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