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Mar 11, 2014 02:09 PM

Europe wants the US to stop claiming to make European cheeses

'“Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it,” he said, added Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.'

By that reasoning, any sweet yellow onion could be called a Vidalia. It's just a name, right?

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  1. Or Hatch Chiles from New Mexico. Olathe corn - Kansas or Colorado? My Australian Fosters Ale is brewed in Fort Worth. Numerous varieties of Cohiba cigars and Havana Club rum have never been to Cuba. Works both ways!

    1. Actually, most of the Muenster made here is very
      different from that produced in Europe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ferventfoodie

        This was my first thought, Muenster is not Munster.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          If I could tell that to Fred and Gaynor Gwynne I would.

      2. Cows milk feta is not feta. Not from denmark, france, england, or the US

        11 Replies
        1. re: Gastronomos

          Don't get me started on feta - and while cows milk feta may not be feta, the PDO on feta is not something I can remotely sign onto. The feta making tradition has spread way beyond the regions in Greece limited in the PDO.

          Where I think the European guidelines get weak is that they are too quick to tie "produced in this specific region" to "produced in this specific way". Another really dumb case was when Newcastle ale moved their factory across the river and then had to go through all of those EU hurdles to keep their own name.

          Now I get that there can be a strong connection to "product grown in a region specifically influences flavor of grape, meat, etc". But with cheese, too often it's just clung to regions out of history/tradition without promoting to a higher height the technique and process of how the cheese is made. In the US in the 19th century, bourbon makers tried to tie the name bourbon with the booze being made in Kentucky. However that stipulation was rejected in favor of sticking more with how bourbon was made.

          If a region can show that their specific air, water, soil, yeast, etc influences how a final product turns out - I'm open to those arguments. But if you're limiting your feta consumption to PDO Greek feta, you're missing out on some really great "feta".

          1. re: cresyd

            what do you say about the 'parmasan' cheese produced in the north of Greece?

            I find it much, much tastier than the PDO that comes to the USA and if I can't get it sometimes I reach for Grana Padana which, is the same cheese, by your definition, but actually tastier.

            1. re: Gastronomos

              I am not well versed on parmesan, and so my complaint is strictly with feta. I believe that feta is like cheddar. I believe that the "feta" made in Cyprus and Bulgaria has a strong tradition that isn't something to disregard. If there was a PDO for Greek Feta, fine. But "feta" as a whole. Nope.

              1. re: cresyd

                what do they call feta in bulgaria?

                1. re: Gastronomos

                  I was in Bulgaria before they joined the EU - so in that regard, I'm not helpful.

                  1. re: Gastronomos

                    Bulgarians usually just call feta "syrene" (or some similar spelling) That translates to "cheese" in English, the full name is "white cheese". It's been ubiquitous in Bulgaria since the Bulgarians were the Thracians.

                      1. re: caganer

                        Given the long histories of the area within modern day Greece and modern day Bulgaria - neither country can truly prove who's cheese (or feta) came first. Once you start brining Odysseys into your legal arguments, it's harder to draw a line in the sand.

                      2. re: Gastronomos

                        The usual dodge round PDO cheeses not made in the PDO area is to describe it as, say, "Greek style cheese". Everyone knows what you mean.

                      3. re: cresyd

                        Agreed. There ARE some specific cheeses, and other goods, which have "transcended" one specific place. Feta is one. Yogurt is another -- look at the legal arguments between Fage and Chobani:

                        French feta, Greek feta, Bulgarian feta, Israeli feta . . . it goes on and on.

                        I have no issue with saying "Greek-styled Yogurt," for example, but . . . .

                2. Within Europe, these and many other cheeses (e.g. Stilton) and other foods already have protected name status - I forget the legal term - so that if one buys a particular product one can be confident that it came from the declared area. Most cheese (in particular) styles are intensely regional, and having this legal protection means that when we buy cheeses we know that we are getting what we expect. It also protects smaller, local producers from big commercial dairies elsewhere! It's not the style that's protected (so there are a lot of cheddar-like hard cheeses that can be used interchangeably with actual cheddar), but the name; which is I assume what is being argued for here.

                  I actually thought that the legislation already covered at least trademarks globally, so am surprised that its only just being enforced.

                  To put a positive spin on it, the EU are trying to ensure that your experiences of Parmesan, Feta &c are what it is meant to be. Conversely, it's effectively protectionism...

                  I would argue that what is really needed is for US dairies to be develop their own regional cheeses, which could then develop their own brand image and would start to be exported back to Europe and intermingled with European classics.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: DavidPonting

                    Global trademarks are acknowledged and practiced by countries mostly populated by gentlemen. Not all countries are. The World Court in the Hague finds the Cuban objections to it's trademark rights and violations laughable, as Cuba is not a signatory to any global trade agreements.
                    Even an innocuous subject as cheese causes friction between the US and France, often involving tit-for-tat trade barriers with other food products.
                    But yes, a group of us did enjoy my Mimolette cheese last Sunday, which I bought before the mite ban.

                    1. re: DavidPonting

                      I read a very recent article about the abundance of excellent cheese makers in the US, but the dilemma is the unlikelihood they could achieve a level of production for export quantities, and still maintain their quality standards. A difficult quandary. Aside from Cabot and Maytag, maybe Humboldt Fog, I can't think of many.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Just googled those - I'll have to try some sometime; they look pretty interesting!

                        I did of course make a mistake in my post, which is that "cheddar" is actually not protected (It was late at night and I just picked the first popular cheese that came to mind), rather "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" is the legally protected name. If anyone is interested, this is the full list according to Wikipedia: (note that the word "parmesan" isn't on the list either, since it's a translation of the true name Parmigiano-Reggiano, but the law still covers it).

                        1. re: DavidPonting


                          The reason why "Cheddar" isnt protected is that it had become so widespread across the globe before the name protection legislation was introduced in the EU.

                          We have a number of labelling protocols. Some are Protected Designation of Origin (like Buxton Blue cheese, or Swaledale) or the wider Protected Geographical Indication (such as Teviotdale cheese) or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (such as Traditonally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork).

                          By the by, Heineken had to give up its PGI status for Newscastle Brown Ale when it moved production away from Newcastle.

                          It's not just cheese , of course. PDO/PGI status applies to a wide range of products - from the Cornish pasty to Jersey Royal potaoes.

                          Of course, our legislation only applies within the EU borders and, much as we may not like it, the rest of the world is free to make its own blue cheese and call it Stilton if it wishes.

                          1. re: Harters

                            American made Stilton? Purists would burn them to the ground. Egregious deception.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Just by the by, Veggo, the PDO on Stilton restricts how and where it is made. One of the restrictions is that it must be made with pasteurised milk. I think there's also a restriction on rennet type.

                              There's now a producer in the geographical area who makes a blue cheese with unpasteurised and a different rennet but, other than that, exactly as a Stilton is made. They call it Stichelton. It's very, very good (although not my favourite British blue cheese - that would be Blacksticks Blue - a blue Lancashire)

                              1. re: Harters

                                "[A]lthough not my favourite British blue cheese - that would be Blacksticks Blue - a blue Lancashire"

                                I respect you very much, Harters, but everybody knows the best British blue cheese is made in Wisconsin.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  MGZ, those are fightin' words!
                                  I heard rumors that St. Agur blue was developed in the last 25 years for non-French preferences for creamy, high butterfat blues, and I sure fell for it. I can't get enough.

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    Ah, that may well be the best, but its not my favourite ( or favorite, even)

                                  2. re: Harters

                                    As you probably know John, Stichelton is made by Joe Schneider, an American, which rather makes me smile when these sort of discussions take place. I must try some Blacksticks if it's that good.

                                    1. re: Robin Joy

                                      Hi Robin. No, I didnt know he was American - there's something of an irony in that, as you say.

                                      Well worth a try at the Blacksticks - nice & creamy but with a decent kick from the blueing. They've recently started to do sheep and goats milk versions which I havnt yet tried - sold as Blacksticks Silk and Velvet.

                                  3. re: Veggo

                                    Sort of - if modern stilton were the same cheese as stilton was before they started using pasteurized milk, (I can't say but people old enough to remember have told me it isn't.)
                                    If you can find it, try a piece of stichelton next to a piece of today's stilton. There's a noticable difference (stichelton is basically stilton made with raw milk, in the same part of England by the same method).
                                    Then try some Bayley Hazen from Jasper Hill in Vermont. It's an American "stilton" that's every bit as good a cheese as any stilton being made today.

                                    1. re: caganer

                                      My favorite Vermont Stilton wannabee is Gore-Dawn-Zola from Boucher Farm.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        And he good new is Bayley Hayle and Gore Dawn Zola are known by their own names not as Stilton. Good cheeses deserve their own name recognition, and low quality mass produced cheeses, should borrow others names i.e. Stilton.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          Stilton wannabee was a poor choice of words.

                                  4. re: Harters

                                    "Of course, our legislation only applies within the EU borders and, much as we may not like it, the rest of the world is free to make its own blue cheese and call it Stilton if it wishes."

                                    Not certain that is correct, IIRC the Australian wine industry moved away from European wine names in '94 because of trade treaties with the EU (and once signed these are legally enforceable as they would be in the US - just like NAFTA).

                                    As a result Australian wines are sold as varietals no longer as Claret, Chablis, White Burgundy, Hock, Champagne, or Sherry.

                                    There was a transitional agreement but that stopped with a revised treating in 2010. I understand there are lots of these agreements and they are reciprocal between countries protecting names both ways.

                                2. re: Veggo

                                  Even since Belgioso started making cheeses in the US, I reach for them before Aurrichio. I know where it's from, as with all cheeses; it's marked right on the label. Can't see the big deal here. I always see a choice of American, and EU, and I take my pick.

                              2. American Muenster has absolutely nothing to do with French cheese of the same name. Schumer (my Senator, whom I usually tolerate, is an ass on this one)

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: DGresh

                                  No doubt it is different, but in the US, Muenster is merely a type of cheese. The name of the French cheese is Munster.

                                  I'm sure that people who are connoisseurs of fine cheese know what they are getting. The rest aren't paying for imported cheese anyway.

                                  1. re: DGresh

                                    and wow, what a surprise it was the day we bought a hunk of French Munster and found out that it ain't the same as American Muenster!

                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      It isn't only Sen. Schumer who is defending American cheese nomenclature. Many other Senators are opposed to this restriction on naming our cheese, so I expect the proposal will go nowhere.

                                      The EU may register whatever controlled names they please for use in Europe, and prohibit importation of products with conflicting names. What we do in the US is not their business. There is no conflict here, because we mark the country of origin on our cheese.

                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        so cheese sold in the US impacts their business not at all?

                                        Au contraire...the world no longer operates as isolated little pods of commerce.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Sure it affects it. Americans who need "feta" can buy the American variety by that name or an imported feta. The latter is much better and more expensive. But the EU says that feta must be Greek. Where I buy imported feta, they have Greek, Bulgarian, and Romanian cheese labeled "feta." I don't know what Bulgarians and Romanians call it and don't want to know. To Americans, they are all authentic feta.

                                          We believe in competition in the US. Someone who makes cheese here wants to take business away from every other cheesemaker, foreign or domestic. The question is not whether the competition affects the business of others, but whether the competition is fair. The EU thinks it is not, but they will lose that argument.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            We also believe in the protection of intellectual property in the US.

                                            The AOC/AOP system is largely a system of intellectual property as it applies to agricultural products.

                                            Cheesemakers are free to make cheese with milk from the same species of animal, in any style they like. The only restriction is on what it's called.

                                            And it's not that big a restriction -- Brie, for example, has an AOC for Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun (there are a couple of others that are up for consideration) -- but there are dozens of Bries produced in other regions of France..only those that meet the AOC definitions are allowed to be called Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun.

                                            Same with Camembert -- if it's called "Camembert de Normandie" it's the AOC real deal. No "de Normandie"? It's just cheese in the style of Camembert.

                                            Sparkling wines? Still not a problem -- that's what the term "méthode Champenoise" is for.

                                            Feta in the EU? Shows up the shelf at le supermarche as "Brebis" -- sheep's milk cheese, but decorated with all those blue and white decorations that look suspiciously like the Greek flag? Leaves little to no doubt as to what you'll find in the package.

                                            Just like you can build a kick-ass car that looks like a Corvette and drives like a Corvette...but you're not allowed to call it a Corvette unless it's made in the place that makes Corvettes.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              The notion that Bulgarians, Romanians, Cypriots, etc don't have long established feta making traditions and that it's only ever been made in Greece is silly. If you're avoiding Buglarian feta (in particular) just because it's not Greek PDO feta, you're missing out on some truly excellent cheese.

                                              Folks can argue all sorts of protection for all sorts of cheeses - but to me feta is like cheddar. There are way too many regions in the Mediterranean that make their own feta. I'm not saying that this should apply to all cheeses, but the feta one, IMO, is not defensible.

                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                i buy bulgarian feta to mix with USA feta for my tiropita and spanakopita. it's cheeper and the bulgarian feta is mushy soft and not salted and the cows milk USA feta is dry and hard.

                                                for eating out of hand, Greek feta, by far, is the gold standard and a protected PDO for a reason.

                                                There are court cases that are/were going on about feta production in england and that awful stuff that was coming out of denmark.
                                                france makes a mild flavoured cheese they were calling feta. now they call it something else. it's feta like, but not feta.

                                                also, no one said you can't make feta anywhere you want. they only say that you cannot confuse the consumer with your product from wherever with a label that claims to be feta.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  Having lived and traveled around certain parts of the Mediterranean I disagree. I have also had some Greek PDO feta that I felt was garbage. I get that the initial case was in response to the Danish feta, but they opted to just disregard a much wider feta tradition in the region.

                                                  I think that if the EU went to US and said "you can't call this Stilton because it needs to be made in xyz ways, and it's not being done" - to a US government body that's going to read a lot stronger than "you can't call this Stilton because of where it was made". I'm not saying there isn't a value in that - but there are enough example of the regionalism trumping other issues in a way that are debatable.

                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    Its going to be part of a trade treaty, trade treaties are bilateral and give benefits to both parts. So true the EU can force the US to do this, but these things are negotiated and agreed over time and happen.

                                                    The US exports $265 billion in goods and $194 billion in services to the EU each year - thats a lot of exports and jobs. Obviously the EU exports a lot to the US as well so the trade treaties are quite important to the economic health of both geographies. Intellectual property and trade marks are all part and parcel of this and thus if agreed it will be enforced - trade sanctions can cost a lot of money and a lot of jobs.

                                                2. re: cresyd

                                                  Although "Feta" is the greek word for this type of cheese.

                                                  The Other European countries that make a similar cheese had local names for their cheeses. The reason they started to label it Feta was people wanted the greek style cheese - it made economic sense to the Bulgarians and Danes exporting to the supermarkets of US, Germany, France etc.

                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    " "Feta" is the Greek word for this type of cheese"

                                                    and is the Greek cheese. It is, and was, made in surrounding areas. even before the boundaries of modern states were outlined by the modern western powers. so, if you tell me that feta is made in, say, Bulgaria, well, sure, it shares a common border that is much newer than the cheese making.

                                                    when "Danish" cows milk "Feta" was being sold in the US, many bought this horrible stuff and thought it to be true Feta. Now that the US is getting pressure about its Wisconsin Feta made from cows milk, it will have to find another way to top its American version of a "Greek Salad" with something that isn't as hard and dry and crumbly as this vile stuff that is labeled "Feta" and isn't even a reasonable facsimile to be called "Greek Style Feta".

                                                    Oh, and Haloumi is a PDO of the Greek Island of Cyprus. ;-)

                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                      That should make this a fait accompli....:)

                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                        Agree the fluid borders in Europe can create some issues, although in theory the geographical origin doesn't need to be a country if it straddles a border. For example the Basque region straddles the France/Spain border.

                                                        I had thought the Bulgarians call their Feta like cheese Sirene - maybe that's the name they still call the local artesian ones. But since Bulgaria is in the EU and Feta is protected by a PDO do they still call it FETA?

                                                        Haloumi is a PDO of Cyprus and protected in the US, but until the politics settle down I fear the EU won't recognise it as such. It is a pity as its a beautiful island and the Greek/Turkish Cypriot politics are frustrating - I used to live there. .

                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                          Folks, we've removed a bunch of posts here. We understand these are issues that some feel strongly about because they're very personal to them, but Chowhound isn't the right place to debate them. Please, just focus on the food and not the larger political situations. Thanks.