HOME > Chowhound > Cheese >


70s Government Cheese

I'm sure many of you remember this stuff, firm, sharp, orange and the best damn burger topper known, next to bacon, not to mention mac-n-cheese that made kids forget the box from Kraft.
So, does anyone know, which company made this stuff? Is it available for sale anywhere? Or can you suggest the next best thing. Thanks, JJ

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I remember it. We got it when the mines were on strike. We called it nacho cheese, but it really wasn't- we just thought we were being funny. Wasn't it made by public companies just made for the government?

    1. It was part of the commodities program. When I was a single mom trying to get through nursing school, it was part of what we got The cheese was good But it was the butter that knocked me to my knees. I'd been using 25-cents-a-pound margarine because of the price. On the other hand, there was that strange canned meat that was red even after they'd cooked it. I wondered if it was horsemeat. But we ate it.

      For all those folks that mutter about government programs, if it weren't for things like and tuition aid, I wouldn't have been an RN and wouldn't have spent decades taking care of patients and families.

      9 Replies
      1. re: lemons

        <For all those folks that mutter about government programs, if it weren't for things like and tuition aid, I wouldn't have been an RN and wouldn't have spent decades taking care of patients and families.>

        Please keep repeating this. I, for one, can't hear it enough times.

        1. re: small h

          Ditto. And everyone who is so against ANY government spending never turns down some pork barrell project in their district, regardless of political affiliation.

          1. re: small h

            "The lessons of history ... show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit."
            ---from FDR's 1935 State of the Union message

            NB: "continued dependence," not assistance to those in temporary need

              1. re: MakingSense

                Welcome back! Nice quote, and I couldn't agree more, as tuition assistance surely represents a temporary need. Although some of my perma-grad student friends might disagree.

              2. re: lemons


                That weird meat made excellent barbeque sandwiches with a bit of bbq sauce.

                1. re: lemons

                  My daughter just got back from Italy she ate Horse Grilled, Braised with Red wine and Porcini, and a Cured Horse Mane Fat similar to Lardo, she couldn't stop talking about how good it was, she said the Italians she was with laughed about the Americans considering so much great meat as pets or dog food. Yes the butter was as good as premium products.

                  1. re: Chef Jimmy J

                    Silly Americans with their particular cultural mores. Oh, wait, that's a bad thing, right?

                2. I have this vague memory that it was intentionally made NOT to taste quite like other, commercially available cheese to avoid overt competition with it. Didn't it have a very smooth American cheese-like texture with a sort of very mild, young Cheddar flavor?

                  1. It looks like vafarmwife is right ... it was made for the government to their specifications
                    and it could be made from trimmings and leftovers from cheesemaking plants:

                    My elementary school was on a government program and we got a lot of the cheese and the weird canned beef rounds for lunch.

                    1 Reply
                    1. My dad and brother swear that the American cheese pack at Costco tastes just like the old government cheese and keep it in their refrigerators for grilled cheese and burger toppings. I'm a Velveeta grilled cheese fan myself, so I'm not sure of the authenticity. It's just too bad you have to buy so much to try it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hippiechickinsing

                        That Costco Cheese makes sense. Thanks for the tip. Velveeta has a nice flavor profile but is too soft for things like Burgers and pasta topping.

                      2. I sure do remember it. It was during the 50's for me. I loved that medium sized cube that was passed out to us kids in class. My mom tried several kinds but it was never to be duplicated.

                        1. I remember that cheese well! We used to get plenty of it because my Nana and aunts always got more than they needed. Made superb grilled cheese on snow days.

                          The closest I've had to it is yellow American from a few good delicatessens. *heh* Now you've got me all nostalgic, so think I'll have to check out regular deli's yellow.

                          1. For "Gub'mint cheese", take a peek and ponder, from this thread with good info, from way back and yonder:


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              Ok so we have Costco, Kraft high-end singles, random mega-mart bulk pre-sliced and making a deal with the local McD's manager, did I miss anything? Thanks to all for your help and nostalgia. God I love this site.....JJ

                              1. re: Chef Jimmy J

                                Thanks for the OP and followup, Chef Jimmy J.
                                Thing is, when I saw "70s Government Cheese" I could only think of Nixon speeches during his last days as president. Sorry!
                                As an aside, US cheese consumption has reached a real high thanks to the efficiency of the cheese industry and the relative scarcity of time-consuming artisan products.
                                As a personal preference, I am really appreciating the low-fat hard cheeses that have come out in the past few years, particularly the so-called "Swiss" varieties.

                                1. re: Chef Jimmy J

                                  McD's cheese is no longer that good cheese, it's some weirdy plastic thing.

                                  I did just try a new cheese our local Ray's is now carrying. Country Harvest cheddar put out by the Harvest Meat Co. out of Portland OR. it was pretty close w/that slightly creamy texture.

                              2. I grew up on this stuff! Mixed with spaghetti, that was a stick to your ribs meal and we were dirt poor so I really appreciated it. We ate it on everything.

                                It was more solid/less oily than typical american, and had a sharp taste to it. If you find a good substitute, let me know! I would love to buy it!

                                Oh, and my single mother supporting me on a waitress' salary went on to work for over 20 years as an admin in a very nice office, and I went on to college. After college, I went back on public assistance for a brief time til I could find work, and then got off of it. I've been very glad to have this food around, it literally has saved my life at 2 different times in my life.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Rockandroller, they don't make too many Mom's like your's anymore. Those food items made the difference in many lives. Not like now where the more kids you have the more food stamps you get and you load the kids and the free food in your 1 yearold Cadillac. As good as that cheese was, it surprises me that none of the manufacturing companies made it their signature American cheese....JJ

                                  1. re: Chef Jimmy J

                                    Eek! Chef Jimmy J - That is a case of one bad apple spoiling the barrel! For everyone of these "Cadillac Moms" there are thousands of Moms like rockandroller1's, lemons and even myself who have used it as the life raft it is meant to be used for.

                                    My husband became disabled earlier this year and last month I had to finally breakdown and apply for SNAP. When the Mr. is finally stable enough, I can go back to work. Until then I wish people would not make judgments based on my vehicle (a lovely SUV we purchased not to long before the disability). I also truly wish that the Gov or the food banks still distributed that fabulous cheese and butter! :-)

                                2. Grandma got it since her only retirement income was social security, and I remember those cheese sandwiches being a special treat when we were over at her house for a reason other than Sunday dinner.

                                  Also good to have a little slice of it over her homemade apple pie.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: beachmouse

                                    My grandmother also got this cheese as did my uncle who took her to wherever it was that it was distributed (she never had a drivers license, she went grocery shopping by pushing a wheelbarrow to the store about 5 blocks away). and he was given the cheese too. (He was not low income, not high income either, but not low). There was not an income level which needed to be adhered to, anybody could get the cheese without proof of need.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      My brother tells the story of visiting his MIL in the Bronx on cheese distribution day at the senior center. They asked my Bro for his card when he walked in to the center to visit. Apparently showing your welfare ID git you a 5lb cheese. My Brother said the only card he had with his name on it was American Express, the worker said, that's fine, and handed him the cheese.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        I'm not certain they distribute the government cheese and butter the same way they did in the 70s. I think it might have been at a senior center too. In Minnesota I think it all goes to food banks run by charities. (Probably a good thing too). The thing that's a little weird is that my grandmother really didn't need the cheese. She wasn't wealthy by any means, but she never had to worry about where to get enough money to pay her bills. She died while still living in the house my grandfather built in 1931.

                                        1. re: John E.

                                          You're right. Most of the commodity foods now go to food banks.

                                          I used to work in a senior housing development in the early 80's. We got tons (sometimes literally) of the butter and cheese. Terrific stuff. Like the others, I wish I could find something like it.

                                  2. I loved that cheese! As others have noted, it made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. When my kiddies were little, I'd simmer that pork in bbq sauce & made sandwiches. I wish they were still giving the stuff out, now its peanut butter, dried milk & dried beans. Back then, I'd heard a rumor that they had discontinued giving out the cheese cause people were throwing it away.

                                    1. I remember back in the early 60's we got it from the commissary at the Army base. It was great on everything. Mom used it in mac&cheese casseroles and it was delicious. Just tonight I was making Quesidillas for the kids and opened a new find at MarketBasket. It was very similar. Came in a large 2 pound pack in the cheese section. Great Stuff!