Lucerne Cheese is sold in Albertsons Companies stores such as Albertsons, Safeway, and Vons. The most obvious sustainability problems of this product come from the inherent environmental impact of dairy and the lack of transparency by Lucerne. Producing cheese creates more greenhouse gas emissions and uses more water than tofu, eggs, chicken, peas, and farmed fish. Furthermore, Lucerne gives very little information about their sourcing of dairy and manufacturing of cheese, so it is hard to know if there are any additional issues with this product. The product is conventional and non organic. Conventional dairy production can pollute soil and water and cause pesticide resistance. I would really like to see more transparency from Lucerne before being comfortable buying this product. The last thing to note is that in reviewing this product I realized that the inherent environmental impacts of producing dairy are potentially worse than the impacts of producing some meats. I wouldn’t recommend this product to anyone looking to reduce their planetary footprint through changing their diet and I would encourage them to consider their level of dairy consumption overall.
The ingredients list for this cheese includes cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, and color. The major red flag ingredient here in terms of sustainability is cultured pasteurized milk. Cultured milk just means bacteria were added to enable cheese production and pasteurized means the milk was partially sterilized with heat. Milk production is very resource intensive. More than two thirds of the world’s farmland is used for raising livestock, including dairy cows. Furthermore, dairy farming uses a lot of water to grow feed, water cows, and manage waste. Dairy farming also releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, due to the enteric fermentation that occurs in cows’ stomachs. Producing 100 grams of protein from cheese produces 10.82 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. You can read more about the methodology behind this statistic here. That is more than from tofu, nuts, eggs, chicken, and farmed fish. In all fairness, these inherent sustainability issues exist for almost all cheeses, and are not specific to Lucerne Cheddar Cheese. Finally, there is the packaging. It is unclear from online sources what exactly the packaging for Lucerne cheese is made of, but it is certainly a non recyclable soft plastic. Alternative ways to store small servings of cheese are in wax or a dry rind, though these are not common for inexpensive cheeses.
From examining Safeway’s online store it seems that all Lucerne products including this cheddar cheese are non organic. Dairy from conventional sources comes from cows that are treated with antibiotics and fed non organic feed. This can cause multiple issues such as antibiotic and pesticide resistance and decreased water and soil quality. Furthermore, the process of growing grain for dairy cows takes away agricultural land that could be used to grow crops for human consumption. Cheese is formed from milk through a process of controlled fermentation, heating, and cooling. Many sources say that when completing this process, 10 kilograms of milk are required to make 1 kilogram of cheese. Again, this is an issue that exists with most cheeses, and is not product specific. That being said, there is virtually no publicly available information on Lucerne’s cheese making process, so it is hard to know if their production efficiency, waste levels, and emissions are above or below average.
Lucerne is a subsidiary of Safeway and therefore also Albertsons. I’ve discussed the sustainability of Albertsons Companies in this review where I conclude that Albertsons needs to do more to be truly labelled a sustainable company. I find it strange that the Lucerne brand distances itself from Safeway and Albertsons. There is no information on their site about the relationship between Lucerne and their parent company Safeway. Similarly, the Lucerne Foods website provides little to no information on how their cows are raised, how their dairy is processed, and how they are planning to become more sustainable. I’ve given this section a zero rating because Lucerne Foods has no information about sustainability on their website and is very non-transparent about their business practices in general.