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:
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.
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.