How The Department Of Agriculture Once Tried To Interfere With Frozen Pizzas

Go to your local grocery store and head over to the freezer aisle. Consider the frozen pizzas. Consider their brands, their variety, their textures, and their prices. Is thin crust better than deep dish? Is Tony's better than Red Baron? After a while, shrug your shoulders and remind yourself that these are frozen pizzas at the end of the day, and you're not quite sure why we get so worked up over them.

In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture once even had an interest in the frozen pizza market. In order to understand what government bureaucracy has to do with the meat lovers' pizza in your freezer, we must first talk about cheese. 

The USDA has quite a bit of interest in cheese, considering that the United States government's attempts to help support the dairy industry have left the U.S. with literally thousands upon thousands of pounds of cheese sitting in vast underground vaults (via Atlas Obscura). The government had attempted to alleviate the massive cheese surplus in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan's administration pumping processed American cheese into the welfare system for schools and poor American families, but this still left thousands of hunks of cheddar still sitting around on the taxpayer's dime (via HISTORY).

What better way to use up all that cheese than to use it on frozen pizza?

The USDA tried to control how much cheese was on a pizza

As The Washington Post reports, the cheese surplus problem was still on the back burner for the folks at the USDA, and they needed to do something about it. In 1983, the USDA decided to remedy the problem by ordering all frozen meat pizzas to have more "real cheese." This meant that, rather than using processed or imitation cheese products on their pizza, frozen pizza companies would have to use a certain percentage of real cheese on their pizza, an option that many pizza companies and even customers rebuked.

The pushback on using "real cheese" came for several reasons. Some believed that the USDA's intervention was a violation of Reagan's promises of hands-off government interference, while some balked at the idea of paying more for their pizza just to benefit the dairy industry. One man from Apopka, Florida was even quoted as saying that he wouldn't pay more for pizza so "some thumbsucker in the dairy industry can buy another Mercedes." Harsh words over some cheddar.

There were some, however, who applauded the USDA stepping in, thankful that the government was stepping in to ensure real foods were being used in their products.

While the USDA eventually dropped the issue, the nation is still dealing with a surplus of cheese. NPR reports that the cheese surplus is now at an impressive 1.4 billion pounds of cheese. A joke about government mismanagement and budgets wouldn't be too cheesy, would it?