Food

7 Cheese Brands to Avoid

A wedge of Jarlsberg Danish cheese with crackers and cherry tomatoes on a cheeseboard
Paul Cowan / Shutterstock.com

Cheese, to me, is one of life’s greatest pleasures — but only if it’s made well. There are many different brands of cheese on the market, both healthy and unhealthy. Some organic or pure cheese brands deliver high-quality items without any additives or artificial ingredients, while other brands produce highly processed cheese with artificial ingredients. In fact, unfortunately, many of the more affordable cheese brands sell cheese that shouldn’t even be marketed as dairy items, according to the FDA’s requirements. (Hint: It’s called Kraft Singles rather than Kraft Cheese because it consists of less than 51% cheese curds.)

Cheese has a bad reputation for being unhealthy since it’s high in fat and salt. However, it’s also a great source of protein and calcium. That being said, you’ll get the most benefits from consuming the more natural cheese brands on the market.

It’s important to know what you’re putting into your body and how it can affect your health. Here are seven of the worst cheese brands to avoid — and why.

1. Kraft

Source: Juanmonino / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
Kraft Singles are a convenient and affordable option — but at what cost?
  • Parent Company: The Kraft Heinz Company
  • Headquarters: Chicago, IL and Pittsburgh, PA
  • Other brands under the parent company: Oscar Mayer, Classico, Velveeta, Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, Weight Watchers, Jell-O, etc.

Highly processed

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Kraft’s cheese products are extremely processed.

Kraft cheese was once a staple item in many American homes, but it has received major backlash in recent years. You might be familiar with the “burning test,” where one consumer lit a slice of Kraft Singles on fire only for it to burn like plastic. Instead of melting, it simply turned black and rubbery.

In fact, Kraft Singles are labeled “singles” instead of “cheese” because they’re less than 51% cheese curds. In other words, the cheese is so processed and filled with unnatural ingredients that the brand couldn’t even legally label it as cheese. As a result, the “cheese” itself often tastes gross, fake, and rubbery — likely not something you’d want to consume.

Kraft sells a variety of pasteurized prepared cheeses that contain food additives of moderate concern and high levels of saturated fat. Its products have also been classified as having moderate processing concerns, and they might even be contaminated with dioxide and other persistent organic pollutants. Not only that, but antibiotics and hormones were possibly used in the production of this product, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

2. Hickory Farms

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Hickory Farms sells packages of meats and cheeses, many of which have received negative reviews for their poor, “falke” taste.
  • Owner(s): Modjule LLC
  • Headquarters: Chicago, IL
  • Other brands under the parent company: N/A

Terrible taste

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Highly processed cheeses lack the same rich flavors as natural cheeses.

Similar to craft, Hickory Farms cheese is simply not real cheese. In fact, many consumers say that the cheese tastes terrible and is so overprocessed that shoppers should avoid it like the plague. 

One Amazon comment even reads: “As a cheese lover, I am so disappointed that it’s not even 100% cheese. It has so much filler and tastes horrible. I am not looking for artisanal cheese but please make it edible.” Other reviewers noted that the cheese “tasted awful” or “like wax.” Many dissatisfied customers compare the cheese to plastic in texture while others say the cheese is simply tasteless. There are many better alternatives to this artificial food product. 

Additionally, according to EWG, some of Hickory Farms cheeses also contain food additives of moderate concern, synthetic food dies, non-specific ingredient flavors, and a concerning amount of sodium.

3. Great Value

Source: Mike Mozart / Flickr
Great Value items definitely come at a lower price, but that often means you’re sacrificing quality.
  • Parent Company: Walmart
  • Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Other brands under the parent company: Sam’s Choice, Equate, Special Kitty, Parent’s Choice, Play Day, Pen+Gear, etc.

Additives galore

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Many of Great Value’s cheese blocks contain artificial colors to manipulate the appearance of the cheese.

Walmart’s infamous Great Value brand is a go-to for many discount shoppers. However, while this cheese brand is certainly much cheaper than others on the market, there’s a reason for that — and it’s evident. 

Great Value cheese contains a ton of additives and high levels of saturated fat. In fact, according to EWG food scores, this brand likely uses antibiotics and hormones in the production of its dairy ingredients. Additionally, it might be contaminated with dioxide and other persistent organic pollutants.

Great Value also uses food coloring in many of its block cheeses. Furthermore, similar to Kraft’s cheese products, it is nearly impossible to melt due to its artificial makeup. The cheese contains a rubbery texture, mild and almost unnoticeable flavor, and an oily consistency that simply does not cut it in the cheese department.

4. Velveeta

Source: Mike Mozart / Flickr
Velveeta is a brand name for a type of processed cheese that resembles American cheese.
  • Parent Company: The Kraft Heinz Company
  • Headquarters: Chicago, IL and Pittsburgh, PA
  • Other brands under the parent company: Oscar Mayer, Classico, Kraft, Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, Weight Watchers, Jell-O, etc.

High in trans fat and sodium

Delicious macaroni and cheddar cheese shell noodles in a bowl
Source: Ezume Images / Shutterstock.com
While you might enjoy that Velveeta Shells & Cheese dinner from time to time, it certainly isn’t a healthy meal.

Velveeta cheese is a longtime favorite in many households, especially when it comes to the brand’s Shells & Cheese. Its rich flavor and thick texture have many customers coming back for more. However, this product is certainly a far cry from one of the healthiest on the market. In fact, it’s also on our list of mac and cheese brands to avoid.

According to EWG, Velveeta’s cheese products contain food additives of moderate concern, and antibiotics were likely used in the production of this product. Not only that, but the dairy ingredients may have also contained hormones as well as ingredients like canola oil that could contribute to unhealthy, artificial trans fats.

5. Sargento

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Many individuals are willing to sacrifice quality for cost, but it’s important to research how these additives affect your health.
  • Owner(s): The Gentine family
  • Headquarters: Plymouth, Wisconsin
  • Other brands under the parent company: N/A

False advertising complaints

Source: Serhii Sobolevskyi / Getty Images
If you’re consuming cheese as a source of protein, make sure the food product is actually cheese and not a processed variety of it.

Sargento cheese is another staple item that many households rely on when shopping for affordable cheeses. While it’s not the worst brand you’ll find on the shelves, it certainly isn’t the best either. For one thing, Sargento products contain food additives and are likely contaminated with dioxide and other organic pollutants. Not only that, but the EWG believes antibiotics were “likely used” in production while hormones “may have been used” as well. 

Sargento is less processed than some of the other cheese brands on this list, but it does use some of the same concerning ingredients. For instance, the shredded cheese variety contains Natamycin (a natural mold inhibitor), which is actually banned at many health-conscious grocery stores. Additionally, while Sargento once labeled its products as free from antibiotics, the brand was actually sued for being misleading, as the products actually did contain trace amounts of antibiotics.

Furthermore, some Reddit users had a field day while reviewing the brand’s cheese products, with one person saying: “[Sargento] most definitely is the worst brand of cheese. Any flavor, sliced, shredded, sting, or stix, they all taste the same, like bad cheese and chemicals. And they have a weird, uncheese-like texture that doesn’t melt. I avoid Sargento at all costs.”

6. Borden

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Borden is yet another brand criticized for including artificial ingredients.
  • Parent Company: Dairy Farmers of America (DFA)
  • Headquarters: Kansas City, KS
  • Other brands under the parent company: Breakstone’s Butter, Country Fresh, Dairy Pure, Friendly’s, Lehigh Valley, etc.

Artificial ingredients

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Many companies use mold inhibitors to increase the shelf life of cheese items.

Similar to the other products on this list, Borden’s cheese contains many additional fillers and is highly processed. This brand is known for its shelf-stable products and affordable prices rather than health-conscious ingredients. 

Borden produces various processed prepared cheese products filled with artificial ingredients like anti-cake agents and mold inhibitors. Additionally, many of its products were likely contaminated with dioxide and other organic pollutants, according to EWG

7. Weight Watchers Cheese

Diet text on flat lay background weight watchers diet
Source: luchschenF / Shutterstock.com
Weight Watchers is certainly not the place to purchase cheese from.
  • Owner(s)/Parent Company: Artal Luxembourg and The Kraft Heinz Company
  • Headquarters: New York City, New York
  • Other brands under the parent company: N/A

Non-specific flavors

Healthy Organic String Cheese For a Snack
Source: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com
Real, natural string cheese can be a great source of protein.

Weight Watchers has one thing in mind: to help its customers lose weight. That being said, the brand doesn’t necessarily prioritize real ingredients and health-conscious food products — especially when it comes to its cheese products.

For example, Weight Watchers string cheese contains various food additives and non-specific flavors that manipulate the food’s taste and aroma. Additionally, it might contain antibiotics and hormones used in the production process. Specifically, its jalapeño string cheese contains modified food starch, which may be genetically engineered or derived from GE crops according, to EWG.

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