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Wisconsin Cheese: A Brief History

 

You know Wisconsin is famous for cheese, but did you ever wonder what makes it so special? Cheese making in the state goes all the way back to the 19th century when European settlers realized just how fertile the local fields were. Dairy farms began popping up everywhere, and making cheese was a natural solution to too much milk. In 1941, Anne Pickett created the state’s first commercial cheese factory with the help of milk from a neighbor’s cow. One hundred years later, there are over 1,500 cheese factories in Wisconsin producing over 500 million pounds of cheese annually.

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As the biggest cheese producing state in the US for over 100 years now, Wisconsin isn’t letting that title go. California came close to taking the crown in 2006, but Wisconsin moved faster and offered 2.4 billion pounds of cheese that year to stay in the lead. Today, milk needs to be imported from various states to keep up with cheese production demands. In 2014, Wisconsin reached 2.9 billion pounds of cheese produced, making up just over 25 percent of all cheese production in the country.

The Big Cheese

There are more than 600 varieties of cheese produced in Wisconsin, and it’s the only state that requires a “licensed cheesemaker” to oversee all commercial cheese production. Only in Wisconsin will you find the Master Cheesemaker program, too, where a set of high standards must be met to achieve such a distinction—it’s similar to the regulations in Europe.


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