State still #1 in cheese

Wisconsin retained its first place position in cheese production in the U. S. with 25 percent of the total in 2011.

The state also continued to report brisk growth in specialty cheese at 586 million pounds or 22 percent of Wisconsin’s total cheese production, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. The numbers represent a 3 percent increase in specialty cheese production over 2010.

Of the state’s 126 cheese plants, 90 make at least one type of specialty cheese. Feta claimed the largest portion of specialty production at 13 percent. The largest increases in specialty production were Gouda, up 24 percent, and Asiago, up 20 percent. Other popular cheeses include Blue, Hispanic types, specialty Mozzarella varieties, Parmesan wheel and specialty Provolone cheeses. Wisconsin is the number-one producer of specialty cheese in the U. S., crafting 46 percent of the nation’s total specialty cheese.

The specialty growth is an indicator of the state’s historic commitment to quality and diversity in the cheese industry. Specialty cheeses have been responsible for the growth in the total cheese category over recent years, and Wisconsin’s artisan and specialty types have received a growing number of awards in domestic and international competitions.

Specialty cheese is defined as a value-added product which commands a premium price. The Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute also defines specialty products as having one or more unique qualities.