American cheese is a not-so-guilty pleasure for the people that named the cheese after themselves. Many Americans hold a special place in their heart for that rubbery, unnaturally orange, delicious processed cheese. However, do you actually know what goes into processed cheese?
Michael Tunick, the author of The Science of Cheese and a research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, talked about what goes into cheeses like Velveeta and Kraft singles in a new video for Business Insider. He highlights how these cheeses are ground-up mixtures of old and fresh cheeses. Companies blend these cheese mixtures with an emulsifier (food glue) to hold it together.
It's a process that was invented by J.L. Kraft just before World War I when he was looking for a way to get rid of some old cheese. He mixed them up and boom, you've got a pasteurized processed cheese food.
If that sounds clunky, that's because it is. There's not much to be done about it, though. While the cheese is approved by the FDA, it can't just be labeled cheese. Most of these products are required to be labeled with a title like "pasteurized processed cheese food," "pasteurized prepared cheese product," or "pasteurized processed cheese spread."