Food - Drink
Why Does the US Have A Billion Pound Surplus Of Cheese?
According to a 2019 report by NPR, the U.S. has a 1.4 billion-pound surplus of cheese, equating to 900,000 cubic yards. This is due to America producing more dairy than it consumes and changing attitudes towards dairy over the course of decades, starting with the Agricultural Act of 1949 that attempted to ensure food availability during WWII.
The Agricultural Act supported farmers by storing excess dairy; the government bought milk directly from farmers and turned it into processed goods with a longer shelf life, like powdered milk and American cheese singles. However, the surplus backfired, and by 1981, there were 560 million pounds of cheese in the reserves.
President Reagan offloaded the cheese to school lunch programs, but this did little, so the government began producing bright yellow blocks of "government cheese" that became a staple of food assistance programs. They even gave financial incentives to fast food companies to put more cheese on their menus, which helped a miniscule amount.
Consumer tastes also moved away from long-lasting processed American cheese, with some Americans buying international cheeses, while others gave up dairy altogether, says NPR. According to the USDA, the average American consumed 247 pounds of milk in 1975; by 2017, consumption fell to 149 pounds per person per year.
In 2016, the American dairy surplus was so large that 43 million gallons of excess milk were simply thrown away, and the action meant to help dairy farmers now hurts them. Lucas HighGround Dairy told The Guardian, "We’ve seen record numbers of dairy farms close because milk prices are so low that dairy farms aren’t profitable".