Amish is a religion. Not a brand. Not a style.

 Note. You might argue that Amish is a religion, and not a culture. Because they live separate from the rest of society and their entire way of life is lived according to religion, I call it a culture. You might argue that they are not an ethnic minorty because they are white. I call them an ethnic minorty because they trace their origin back to a specific region of Switzerland. They emigrated together and nearly all Amish are born into this community and share the same ancestry and cultural history. They have their own unique language that is derived from Swiss German, but has evolved and is distinctly different from modern Swiss German. You can disagree with me, but I won’t change my mind. 

Troyer Cheeses – An honest company 

I buy Troyer brand butter. Originally, I didn’t think of culture or politics. I bought it because it tasted better than other “Amish” products I could find for sale outside of roadside stands manned by Amish families. I did some research to see why this was the case. After what I discovered, I will not ever buy a product labeled as Amish unless I know for sure it’s really Amish.

Jonas Troyer, the founder of Troyer Cheeses, was born into and grew up in the Amish community, but left at some point to marry a woman outside the community. In his company bio, it is mentioned that Troyer began selling his cheeses he bought from local cheese makers. He never mentions that he sold cheese made by Amish people, but I strongly suspect it’s likely, because he grew up and kept ties with the Amish community in his era. 

Even though his company uses many, if not all of the methods that real Amish people use to create butter, the company does not refer to any of their products as Amish or “Amish style.” It’s hard to find much if any information about Jonas Troyer online, so I can only guess why he does this. Because he grew up Amish, he understands and respects that it’s a religion and an ethnic community. Even if he’s currently Mennonite or of another Anabaptist denomination, he might feel that labeling his butter as Amish or ‘Amish style’ would be deceptive and misleading. He might also find it disrespectful to Amish people to cash in on their name, even though he’d very likely sell more butter and cheese doing it. 


Not everyone else is so honest 

Even though he never labels his own products as Amish, other companies do. In my opinion, the owners of ‘A Taste of Amish’ has little or no respect for the Amish as a religious or ethnic group. They might claim they do, but look at their company bio. This mentions why they chose the company name:

People often ask us, “Since you’re not Amish, why did you open an Amish grocery store?”

The answer is simple: We believe in the products.

So much of our food today has ingredients in them that we neither need nor want. We believe that our products are a much healthier alternative. We offer samples of many of our products to our customers because the taste says it all! 

Do you see any mention of respecting the religion or even the basic values of the Amish people? The Amish don’t make food the way they do simply because it’s a healthier alternative to modern food production. They don’t use their methods because ‘taste says it all.’ When it comes to the Amish religion and the Amish community, taste next to nothing! 

Did you notice that their list of Amish products has only one company? It’s Troyer butter, a company that seems to tame efforts not to ‘cash in’ on the popularity of Amish culture and food. So they are cashing in on a company’s ‘farm cred’ when the company isn’t doing this themselves. One might argue that Troyer shouldn’t sell his products to them, but I’m not going there.

The worst offender

Amish Country Roll Butter  is not Amish. Check out the company website for  Pearl Valley Cheese, the company that sells this butter. There is no mention of the Amish at all on their page. They are not an Amish company, nor do they sell butter made by Amish farmers. The company believes they may use Amish as a trademark. As far as I know, they currently can in the US.

And here is where it gets really nasty. It they are claiming Amish as their personal trademark, they might have a right to sue another company for infringement of their brand called Amish. That means that if another company uses the term Amish in an equally deceptive manner, they might win a lawsuit and collect damages. I strongly suspect they would never do this, because this would call very public attention to their own deceptive marketing practices. 

Dont think this doesn’t harm the Amish.

The Amish aren’t currently filing lawsuits or cease and desist orders. This is because the Amish avoid the court system. This doesn’t mean this isn’t hurting their business. If an Amish family sells butter at a farmer’s market, it might be more expensive than other butters. They have a higher overhead cost. They can’t cut costs, because their methods of food production is part of their religion.
If a family sells their butter at the same market, and they are not Amish, they can offer their butter at a cheaper price. Even if they only buy milk from grass fed grain, they are still buying it. They don’t raise the cows themselves. Even if they are, they aren’t required to use a specific means of production. They can cut costs in ways the Amish simply may not. The end product might be the same foodstuff, but it wasn’t produced the same way.
Anyway, these fake Amish people can make their products more cheaply and undercut the Amish. People might be fooled into believing that both booth owners are Amish. They won’t know that they just “Amish Style” products. They might as well go steal he Amish family cash box. They robbed them of customers by pretending to be Amish or implying that they sold products made by Amish farmers.
To go further, the Amish are suffering because Agribusiness is outbidding them in land purchases. They are also rumored to be putting pressure on legislators to find ways to make it even more expensive for Amish to own their land. It’s beneficial to the county and State because Agribusiness will pay a lot more for the same land.when property values go up, tax revenue increases. And most of the voters in town won’t feel the financial pinch.
You might not see a connection here, but think if this. Where are the ingredients to make this food coming from? Unlike real Amish folk, these people have very little reason to not buy cheaper materials  from Agribusiness. If they choose not to buy from those businesses, it’s not out if respect for the Amish. It’s because their customers will complain that the product is inferior. 
So not only are they taking away money from the Amish, they might be paying companies who are destroying the Amish way of life.

Does anyone care?

What I find most sad about this appropriation, is that people who complain about these brands will focus on the quality of the product and not the fact that these companies are using the name of a religious community to sell their products. I once bought Amish Country roll butter, because I thought it was Amish. When I opened the package, I knew right away it wasn’t Amish made. It wasn’t the same color and tasted nothing like Amish butter. This is because Amish have grass fed cattle and the Amish Country Butter is made with  milk from grass fed cattle.  

I admit at the time I first realized what happened, I was more ticked off about paying more than twice as much for a product that tasted no different than the cheaper product. I went online to see what up. Here is the first article I found. I’m not going to bash her, because she did her homework, discovered, and reported the truth about the company. But it concerns me that she and many other folk who have written complaints have focused on the quality of the food, rather than the fact that turning a religion into a brand or style so they can make money is disgusting and shouldn’t be allowed.

 It’s not just food! Do your Homework.

‘Amish’ Furniture has long been faked. I won’t say I know for sure if this company is fake, but I doubt that these electric fireplaces are traditionally made by the Amish. I can dig up all sorts of other fake Amish products all over the US. I might do so at a later time. I would like to find specific questions to ask, because they can’t get away with lying online so easily, but I can see a local vendor lying when asked. 
I’d probably ask questions like, which order of Amish made the product? Where are their farms? What relationship to they have with the Amish they guy these products from? Many people don’t know that there are several different orders. I’m guessing that most sellers would fumble around and shrug if you asked. I’ll see if there are better ways and post about them later.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s