U.S. Limits Imported Cheese to Third of a Pound per American

I’m co-hosting an Argentina/Antarctica-themed party this evening and trying to shop for Argentine products. It is easy to find Argentine wine but none of the stores in Cambridge have Argentine cheese. I searched a bit and discovered http://www.usitc.gov/publications/docs/tata/hts/bychapter/1210C04.pdf, which gives the import quotas for cheese by country. It turns out the annual aggregate amount is about 50 million kg of cheese from all countries. That works out to about one third of a pound per American. That’s only about 1/100th of total cheese consumption in the U.S., therefore that can legally be from a foreign country.

It is a good thing that we are so eloquent at educating other countries on the benefits of free trade…

[Separately, note the crazy amount of cheese that can come from New Zealand, nearly half as much as from all of the European Community.]


  1. jay c

    January 27, 2013 @ 10:30 pm


    next time, call around to italian-american stores. they often carry Reggianito as a cheaper alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan). I have seen it at Whole Foods sometimes. Finestein can forget about the NRA, the most powerful lobby in America is the food lobby. We can oursource cars to Japan, clothes and just about everything else to China, but forget about outsourcing our cheese! Instead we hire illegal immigrant laborers to make a poor knock-off that can’t even be called ‘Parmesan’ and can’t even be called cheese legally in the EU.

  2. LV

    January 28, 2013 @ 11:02 am


    The Italian stores in NY that I’m familiar with (especially brooklyn, I guess) almost always carry Sardo Argentino, both fresh and aged. This is much less grainy than Reggianito, but also reminiscent of parmiggiano, milder (especially fresh) but still very flavorful. Argentina of course had very large Italian immigration so they are familiar with each other i guess.

    Argentina has some interesting laws lately with regard to trade. For example any importer now has to export an equal value of goods to operate in Argentina (X-I in the GDP equation). So high street boutiques (Tiffany’s, Cartier, etc) are leaving the country, and others are trying to be creative: BMW is now in the Leather production and export business, and Mercedes is exporting wine. (Argentina doesn’t make good cars). I guess that has something to do with your cheese problem – it just doesn’t have the brand of Argentinian wine or leather to be as valuable yet and gets dinged in the trade negotiations as US can retaliate in cheese since it has such plentiful selection from elsewhere. (NZ?!) Sardo is a great value if you see it in my opinion.

    The table is hilarious though. But I’m always for a certain amount of Central Planning.

  3. Gerardo

    January 29, 2013 @ 10:44 pm


    What really irks me is that, not only is the imported selection of dairy products very limited in the U.S., but the American “equivalents” are branded in a deceptive way to make it sound like they’re the real deal to American consumers, e.g. “parmesan cheese” should only be labeled as such if it comes from the Parma region in Italy, “swiss cheese”, etc.

    I’d be willing to bet that the USA is the only OECD country that allows this cheating to take place within a countries’ domestic market in a large scale.

    For example, in supermarkets in Mexico, the same Kraft “Parmesan cheese” made in the U.S.A. is labeled as “Queso tipo Parmesano” or “Parmesan-style cheese”. Mexico government is very careful not to break OECD rules on denomination of origin.

  4. David Gillies

    January 30, 2013 @ 5:27 pm


    I’ve eaten what Americans laughingly call ‘Cheddar’. I think in the UK it would probably be classified as floor wax, or perhaps construction caulking. Agricultural subsidies are a classic example of rent-seeking and should be abolished, unilaterally if necessary. Everyone does it, of course, but as Bastiat pointed out, the fact that your competitor throws rocks in his harbour is no reason to throw rocks in your own.

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