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Know your cheese

From the Farm

October 14, 2011
By Kerry Hoffman (

I recently spent several days hiking along The Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. I spent the time with several women from different parts of the country and it never fails that there is at least on vegetarian in the group.

The last trip I took of this type found me in the middle of the Grand Canyon, without any milk or meat. The horror! It was especially horrific to other participants when, at the conclusion of the trip, I purchased a half gallon of white milk and drank it all at one sitting. I also never pictured myself partaking in tofu instead of a large, medium-rare steak either.

I am not a vegetarian and I tend to really miss milk and meat after one week without either grocery item.

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Kerry Hoffman

I don't really hold any judgment against people who choose the vegan lifestyle, as long as they make it for all the correct reasons.

Of course, this last trip included several vegans of differing levels when it came to meat or animal products.

When I asked one in particular why she chose to be a produce-only eater, her response came rather casually and I found it to be somewhat odd.

"Years ago, when my daughter was in high school, she said that all farming is inhumane," she said. "So, she became a vegetarian."

Well, considering her daughter had never ever been to a working production farm at that time, I found it to be a somewhat irresponsible reason.

All I could do was state my point of how, "Sure there are some farms that treat their animals inhumanely, but there are also farms that treat their animals rather well." I am not sure if I made an impression, but I had to say something.

The day before we packed up to head home, this same person asked me if our cows were like pets. Naturally, my conversation was all about my beloved Holstein Angus and how she and I greeted each other every morning. No matter how hard I tried to hold back the tears when it came to talking about her Angus waiting to die until I returned from a meeting, it didn't work.

I bawled like a baby. (Yesterday Pinky, Joey's show cow, left the herd and I am still bawling like a baby.)

Our tour guide was also a strict vegan and organic supporter. She made us wonderful organic meals. We consumed fruit, veggies, desserts and one day tacos.

She prepared the meal with organic lettuce and meat, but then she allowed us to top our tacos with popular-label "pasteurized prepared cheese product."

Gasp! I know this cheese is brought into the plant as "real" cheese and is then disseminated and remixed with other ingredients to make a cheese product that is advertised as real.

If it were cheese it would include the "prepared cheese product" included in the label

I explained to her that she should be consuming cheese produced at companies like Crystal Farms or State Brand (AMPI). These companies don't take apart a real product and add other products to come up with a pseudo-cheese.

She was totally clueless that this actually happens in the cheese world. It seems to me that if you choose to be a vegan, and also consume only food that hasn't been modified, then you should also eat cheese that hasn't been modified from its original state as well.

The tour guide asked me for specific names of companies that don't modify their cheese and I was more than happy to oblige. I gladly named off State Brand, which is an AMPI cheese, Hy-Vee and Food Club (Cash Wise's store label).

I hope a made a dent in corrected the misinformation that was learned by the women that were on the trip with me. The next time you are at the grocery store, take a look at the label on the cheese and choose only real cheese.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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