Designing a low-fat cheddar cheese for the school lunch program that has texture and flavor parity with a full fat cheese

Principal Investigator:

Donald McMahon , Utah State University



Project Summary:

The USDA school lunch program requires that school lunches for children older than 5 years, should provide no more than 30% of calories from fat, and 10% of calories from saturated fat.  Reducing fat content of cheddar-style (33% fat) cheese to 6%, would help school lunch programs meet this object, and potentially allow for an increase in cheese usage in school lunches.

From 1990 to 2000, there was considerable research conducted at the NDRPB dairy food research centers, especially the Western Dairy Center where low fat cheese research was a focal area. Then when industry needs and market trends shifted to other priority areas, the research focus shifted from methods for manufacturing low fat cheese to more fundamental research into understanding the chemical and microbial factors controlling cheese flavor and functionality.

Both mozzarella and cheddar cheese in various forms are used in the USDA school lunch programs (  For either cheese, a low fat cheese by CFR definition can contain no more than 6% fat.  This is based on the defintion of low fat food containing not more than 3g of fat per serving, or in the case of cheese, the minimum 50g reference amount.  Based on prior research, this small amount of fat is necessary to maintain some opaqueness of the cheese.  The next fat reduction is for a fat free cheese which can contain no more than 1% fat.  At these levels the trans fat content will be 0g per serving, primarily because apart from the CLA content of milk fat (which is not included in the trans fat calculation), the amount of trans fat is negligible in a low fat cheese.




Published Abstract: