The Massive Amount Of Cheese Wisconsin Produces

The image of a cheese-shaped hat proudly worn by cheering sports fans is one that most people have seen in the media at some point. But why exactly does this daily-based image exist? According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the term "cheeseheads" that many Wisconsin residents have proudly adopted as a nickname, came about due to the incredible amount of cheese that was produced in this Midwest state in the 1980s. Although the origin of this symbol may come from years past, the state continues to lead the way in cheese production today. Wisconsin's claim to fame goes far beyond yellow foam hats, and the statistics are nothing short of impressive.

According to Cuba City, Wisconsin, 26% of the nation's cheese comes from Wisconsin, which is home to about 18,000 dairy farms. The state also boasts the country's largest number of licensed cheesemakers, coming in at nearly 1,300. This means that the state produces upwards of two billion pounds of cheese per year. An astounding 67% of the country's Muenster cheese is produced in Wisconsin (per Cuba City), along with favorites such as Cheddar, Mozzarella, and American; all of which makes for plenty of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. While the state's statistics are definitely notable, it does beg the question of how Wisconsin became the dairy destination that it is today.

Wisconsin's evolving dairy tradition

The state's cheese-centric heritage goes back to the early 1800s when farmers discovered that cheese was easier to keep fresh than milk or butter during a time when refrigeration wasn't an option (per theĀ Wisconsin Historical Society). Immigrants arriving in Wisconsin brought their own traditions and styles as well to add to the repertoire of the local cheese producers as the state began to make a name for itself in the dairy industry. Gouda came from the Dutch, Camembert and Brie from the French, and Mozzarella and Gorgonzola from the Italians. Brick and Colby are two types that actually originate in Wisconsin, and are also two of the most popular exports from the state (per the Wisconsin Historical Society).

America's cheese production in 2020 was 13.25 billion pounds and is only second to the European Union when it comes to cheese production (via Agricultural Marketing Research Center). There are over 300 varieties of this dairy-based delight made in The United States, with Cheddar and Mozzarella being the most popular, but demand for more artisanal, unique cheeses seems to be growing, as well. Wisconsin Cheese shares that its ready for cheese connoisseurs with creations such as Havarti with horseradish, Monterey Jack with habaneros and ghost peppers, and a Bellavitano Merlot, which crosses cheddar and parmesan for a creamy treat.