Here in the U.S., we’re no strangers to rising food costs (or rising costs on just about everything for that matter – even though gas prices are lower than they’ve been in the while, it still hurts just a little bit every time I fill up.) But we don’t really have it so bad – while a gallon of whole milk is up 16 cents over Q1 prices according to the most recent AFBF Marketbasket Survey of commonly purchased staples, we haven’t experienced the same sort of price inflation that most international markets have. The global food price situation is so desperate that G20 agriculture ministers are meeting in Paris this week to discuss the ongoing food security issue that much of the world faces. I wonder if they’ll talk about the price of cottage cheese in Israel…
An article published by The Jewish Daily Forward this week explores a boycott sparked by the rise in the cost of cottage cheese in Israel. You think our dairy prices are high? Imagine a 40% increase over a three year period for a 9 ounce container of cottage cheese. According to the Forward, the dramatic price increase was due, in large part, to the removal of governmental price controls on dairy products. And Israelis didn’t take to kindly to it. So somebody organized a Facebook protest calling for Israelis to boycott buying cottage cheese through the end of July. It worked – one of Israel’s most popular brands announced that they’d be lowering prices across Israel by about 20%.
But why did the prices cause such anger? After all, it’s only cottage cheese… As The Forward explains,
The answer is that a combination of factors — history, identity and taste — has put cottage cheese on a pedestal in the mind of the Israeli public. “It’s almost like someone is messing with your mother’s milk,” said Israel’s leading sociologist of food, Nir Avieli, a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The cottage cheese romance has its roots in the beginnings of Zionism. One of the pioneers’ greatest hopes was to be able to find nourishment from the land. They arrived with the biblical description of the land “flowing with milk and honey” in their minds and with the pessimistic predictions of what they would achieve reverberating in their ears.
Dairy farming was seen as one of their greatest against-all-odds achievements (since nobody expected cows to thrive under Israel’s climate conditions), and cottage cheese became regarded as one of the milk’s simplest but finest products. Read more
And, let’s face it: as good as our cottage cheese here in the Midwest is, there’s something special about Israeli cottage cheese. It’s spreadable and makes a delicious topping for toast. There’s just no substitute for it here (or, at least as far as I’ve seen). But would I join a protest for cheese? I’m not so sure…
Many Americans boycott foods or manufacturers for ethical reasons (environmental, etc) but I’ve never heard of a boycott over price. Have you? What foods could you or your family not live without?