(WBIR-Blount County) Your favorite cheese could soon go by a different name in America, if the European Union gets its way.
According to the Associated Press, the EU wants exclusive rights to the names of cheeses made in their countries, like feta, Asiago, and Parmesan.
While U.S. dairy producers and big box companies argue it could cost the domestic cheese industry $4 billion, an East Tennessee cheese maker said the Europeans make a good point.
"Those are their cheeses. I mean Parmesan has been made there for centuries upon centuries. So I say let them keep it," said Ryan Burger, head cheesemaker and livestock manager at Blackberry Farm.
The estate sits on 42,000 acres, nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, and features distinctive cheeses made from their sheep milk.
"We make everything from soft ripened cheeses to blue cheeses, naturally caved aged cheeses as well as some washed rinds," said Burger. "As far as our aged cheeses, we don't do something exactly like a Parmesan or a pecorino, but we do make an aged, naturally rinded, raw sheep milk cheese."
Burger said while he takes techniques from the old European style of cheese making, the distinct local taste defines the label.
"For our cam and bear style cheese, we take the idea of a white blooming flower, because it is a white bloomy cheese that we make, and name it the Magnolia," explained Burger. "So that's kind of how we come up with our names, a little bit more individual to our area. And a little bit more unique and creative in the naming process."
Burger said another example is Blackberry Farm's award-winning Downer Brown Cheese.
"It is actually named after our beer maker, Ron Downer," said Burger.
While mass producers like Kraft are fighting the possible name changes, claiming it would be too costly to food makers and confusing for consumers, Burger said it would not impact artisan cheese makers.
"Most small dairies and artisan dairies around the country that I know of are not really trying to take anyone else's name and are really happy to come up with their own names," said Burger.
Burger said he agrees with the European Union, since cheese makers can't copy their local and successful recipes.
"Like a Parma Ham has to come from Parma, or Champagne has to come from Champagne. So why not Parmesan be only from Parma as well?" asked Burger.
According to the Associated Press, a bipartisan group of 55 senators wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislsack this week asking them not to agree to any such proposals by the EU.
The EU already has an agreement with Canada and Central America. If feta was made in Canada, for example, it can only be marketed as 'feta-like' or 'feta-style,' according to the report.
Other cheeses could include Gorgonzola, fontina, grana, Muenster, Neufchatel, and Romano.