Since we’re a food-centric website, we don’t cover a lot of lumber-centric news here at The Takeout, nor did we anticipate a time when the worlds of industrial building materials and processed cheese products would intersect. But here we are, discovering that yet another wrench has been thrown into the completely out-of-whack food supply chain, and that wrench is made of... wood.
When the pandemic brought society to a grinding halt last year, production in the lumber industry slowed considerably, and as more and more people began working from home, they realized they no longer needed to live in crowded cities where coronavirus was running rampant. This led to a house-building boom earlier this year, and subsequently, the price of lumber went through the roof; according to Woodworking Network, the wholesale price went soaring from $350 per thousand board feet to nearly $1,200. Almost makes the chicken wing shortage look quaint, doesn’t it?
So what does this have to do cheese? Well, the cheese industry packages its massive blocks of cheese—the kind you can shred, cut into cubes, or eat straight from the wrapper like a candy bar—in large wooden boxes. And, with no wooden boxes to stick their cheese into, the industry has needed to pivot to cheeses it can produce without them. Namely, processed cheese.
Last week Bloomberg reported that the market has been flooded with processed cheese, which is packaged in 500-pound barrels that, despite their name, aren’t made of wood; according to industry publication Hoard’s Dairyman, these “barrels” are really large, multi-dimensional cardboard boxes lined with thick plastic bags, which are then pumped full of liquid processed cheese product and vacuum sealed. And, because the market is currently overflowing with processed cheese, prices have dropped to a 15-month low. So for the millions of us who will never, ever be able to afford a house, let us take solace in the fact that, for a little while at least, we’ll be saving money on cheese, which we can then put towards our student loans. Yay, I guess?