Jill Layton
June 25, 2015 12:11 pm

While face to face with a slice of American cheese, countless Americans have taken a look at said slice and thought, “Which part of this plastic-wrapped, neon orange square is the cheese part?” It’s an age-old question, but for most of us, it doesn’t stop us from eating it. Because what’s Fourth of July (or barbecues in general) without American cheese? They’re probably still American — just a little healthier. The question one company is asking, and urging fellow Americans to ask, is what makes American cheese American?

The Tillamook brand, a farmer-owned dairy co-operative, has launched an advertising and social media campaign that makes fun of the long time cheese staple. To launch the campaign, they released a super low-tech, stop-animation video featuring a cut-out of Abraham Lincoln, riding a fake grizzly bear and holding a slice of pasteurized, cellophane-wrapped American cheese. He questions whether or not our forefathers would allow a processed cheese product to take our country’s name. He answers the rhetorical question by saying “American cheese is un-American”, and then requests that all Americans sign the White House petition to remove America’s name from processed cheese (at least 100,000 signatures are needed to receive a response from the White House) — and then of course eat Tillamook cheese instead.

Here’s Honest Abe and the grizzly:

In addition to the video, two print ads support the campaign are in circulation: George Washington riding a bald eagle, surrounded by cheese on fire, and Betsy Ross surfing on a shark, holding a speared slice of American cheese.

To coincide with Fourth of July barbecues, Tillamook and Los Angeles-based ad agency 72andSunny are asking consumers to declare their independence from processed cheese. Is this just a marketing gimmick? Probably. So far only about 300 people have signed the petition and 99,000 more are needed. So don’t hold your breath.

But it’s worth noting, as Mashable pointed out, the Federal Drug Administration doesn’t even allow companies like Kraft to label their American cheese as “cheese.” Any product that is made with less than 51% real cheese and contains ingredients like sodium citrate, gelatin and lactic acid isn’t considered cheese. In fact, many American cheese brands list the product as a “processed cheese product” or “pasteurized cheese food” on the package. Some store brands use the word “imitation” or “prepared” cheese, while the most vague term used is “sandwich slices.”

So if  American cheese was to be renamed, what would the name be? Take out the “American” and the “cheese” and you’re left with a whole lotta nothing. Maybe that’s the point?

Related stories:

Cheese is good for you? Thanks science!

Kraft Mac and Cheese: What you need to know about the recall

(Featured images via Tillamook)

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