The U.S. cheese industry is built on generations of passion, American creativity, and skilled craftsmanship from innovative experts unbound by tradition and constantly pushing limits. The USA is reputed to be the world’s largest single-country cheese producer and exporter, offering over 1,000 varieties of top quality, innovative world-class cheeses, providing an unparalleled gamut of diverse cheese varieties.
This year, the USA Cheese Guild hosted its first Global Instructor Conference in Wisconsin and California in the United States, bringing instructors of the Guild’s USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program from around the world to provide industry experts an unparalleled first-hand opportunity to learn more about the U.S. cheese industry, and for them to subsequently enhance their training and program offerings back in their home countries by sharing these insights with their students, to help them better understand the exciting world of USA Cheese.
A cornerstone of the Guild’s marketing efforts, the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program is a professional training curriculum to educate importers and distributors, retailers, culinary students, and professionals as they discover the U.S. cheese industry for themselves. The program is offered through courses and in partnership with nine prestigious culinary schools and universities worldwide.
To date, more than 1,400 industry professionals have completed the program, earning the designation of USA Cheese Specialist™.
In Singapore, the USA Cheese Guild runs the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program (USA CSCP) for Culinary Students with Nanyang Polytechnic, offering this program to students from the Diploma in Food & Beverage Business and the Diploma in Food Science & Nutrition. The inaugural cohort commenced this year, comprising 39 students from both diplomas. The USA CSCP for Culinary Students is offered as an optional program for students to participate in during their term break, where they are educated on the basics of cheese and how to use it in culinary applications. Students undergone 36 hours of instruction in both theory and practical sessions, taught over three progressive levels of competencies before they are awarded the designation of USA Cheese Specialist.
When asked how the Conference changed the perception of American dairy farming and the U.S. cheese industry, Chef Muhammad Imran, USA Cheese Guild Chef Consultant, said, “It was fascinating to discover how many USA Cheeses were a confluence of heritage and innovation, a process that may seem criminal in European cheese making. It was an amazing experience to be exposed to so much information, delving deeper into cheesemakers’ history, statistical and general knowledge of the U.S. cheese industry. Nothing beats the experience of dipping my hands into the vats, cutting curds, drizzling annatto and calcium chloride out of tubes into the milk for yellow cheddar cheese, testing pH for LMPS (low-moisture, part-skim) mozzarella, salting and mixing curds, and even rubbing black pepper on the BellaVitano wheel in Sartori.”
Conference participants met with several prominent U.S. cheesemakers and suppliers during their trip, with visits to state-of-the-art cheese processing plants and dairy farms to gain first-hand insights into the U.S. dairy industry’s commitment to the highest level of environmental stewardship, sustainability, and cow health and wellbeing. “Visits to Sartori and Point Reyes dairy farms amplified my awareness about modern farming practices, seeing the cows in clean comfortable living conditions, with cooling fans, nutritious feed and the use of technology to ensure they are healthy,” adds Chef Imran.
Some of the visited cheesemakers and dairy farms that supply the milk to make their cheese include Schreiber Foods, a customer brand leader in natural cheese and process cheese; Emmi Roth, a leading provider of award-winning specialty cheese; Sartori, a fourth-generation family-owned and operated company focusing on creating both traditional and American Original cheeses, such as their line of BellaVitano® cheeses; Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, a fourth-generation family owned and operated business, home to some of the country’s most celebrated cheeses; Bivalve Dairy, a small-scale, pasture-based grazing dairy operation; and Cowgirl Creamery, a women-run and owned business that has been at the forefront of the specialty cheese movement in the United States, dedicated to creating organic, farm-to-table, award-winning cheeses.
At the Cheese School of San Francisco, participants enjoyed a cheese & wine pairing session and a hands-on experience building their own cheese board. Likewise, at The Culinary Institute of America at Copia, participants attended a seminar by Chef Barbara Alexander, followed by a team challenge to prepare a dish using USA Cheeses, judged by Chef Barbara.
“The trip has enhanced my knowledge in terms of understanding the different types of cheeses and their characteristics, including the various cheese making processes and the different ways of cooking with the cheeses. Visiting the cheese makers and farmers has also helped as we can now share our first-hand experiences with our students and deliver the course better to them,” shares Chef Nicholas Low, Lecturer, Food & Beverage Business, School of Applied Science, Nanyang Polytechnic Singapore.
Adds Richard Khaw, Deputy Director (SkillsFuture & Industry), School of Applied Science, Nanyang Polytechnic Singapore, “The major misconception about USA Cheese in Singapore and the region is that the cheeses aren’t as reputable as cheeses from Europe, Australia or New Zealand, and most consumers are only familiar with processed Kraft sliced cheese. The Conference has enriched my perception about USA Cheeses in terms of the many different cheese varieties available, the high quality and safety controls, and the stringent farm-to-market cheese production supply chain. Now that I know more about the different USA Cheeses in terms of their characteristics and myriad application possibilities, I am better able to teach my students about Cheeses from the USA and therefore educate the region about USA Cheeses.”
Concurs Chef Low, “The biggest misconception of USA Cheeses in our local region is that they only make sliced processed cheese. Furthermore, our local retail markets usually only sell cheeses from Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. This Conference has changed my notion of USA Cheeses, thanks to its wide variety range, strict food safety standards and the taste and flavour profile of their top-quality artisanal cheeses.” Grooming the next generations of industry experts and consumers about the richness and wide variety of USA Cheeses starts with better educating students at the university levels.
The 10-day educational tour provided the instructors with valuable first-hand experience learning about the breadth and depth of USA Cheeses, with them eager to impart these insights to future batches of students at Nanyang Polytechnic.
About the USA Cheese Guild
Hundreds of years of excellence stemming from a melting pot of backgrounds and cultures makes the United States a unique partner to meet the world’s cheese needs. The USA Cheese Guild works, on behalf of American farmers and the entire cheese community, to build global awareness of the excellent Cheeses from the USA.
Through education and promotions, the Guild aims to inform retail and foodservice professionals and consumers about the craftsmanship, innovation, variety, and versatility of USA cheeses. The Guild sanctions the USA Cheese Specialist® Certification Program, offered through many prestigious culinary institutes and universities worldwide.
Managed by the U.S. Dairy Export Council, it is headquartered in Arlington, VA and has offices across Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
Cheeses from the USA are Beyond Expectations™ in variety, flavour and value!