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Wisconsin cheese is cheese made in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin has a long tradition and history of cheese production and it is widely associated in popular culture with cheese and the dairy industry.
Soon, dairy farms sprang up around Wisconsin, and farmers began producing cheese to preserve excess milk. In 1841, Anne Pickett established Wisconsin’s first commercial cheese factory, using milk from neighbors' cows. A century later, Wisconsin was home to more than 1,500 cheese factories, which produced more than 500 million pounds of cheese per year.
Wisconsin has long been identified with cheese; in the words of a 2006 New York Times article, "Cheese is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating, sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life." Wisconsin has claimed the title of the largest cheese-producing state in the United States since 1910, when it passed New York. In 2006, Wisconsin produced 2.4 billion pounds of cheese and held onto its top ranking, despite concerns that California's faster-growing cheese industry would soon surpass Wisconsin's production. In 2007, Wisconsin again held onto its lead, which had begun to grow slightly. In 2010, Wisconsin's cheese production rose to 2.6 billion pounds (requiring the state cheese industry to import a substantial amount of milk from other states to meet production needs). In 2014, Wisconsin produced 2.9 billion pounds of cheese, accounting for 25.4% of all cheese produced in the U.S.
As of 2013, Wisconsin continues to be the largest cheese producer in the United States, making over 600 different cheese varieties. Wisconsin is the only U.S. state that requires that a licensed cheesemaker supervise the making of commercial cheese. It is also the only state to offer a master cheesemaker program, which is patterned on the rigorous standards of similar programs in Europe.
- Cheese curd, typically eaten within hours of production and popular to some in cheesemaking areas
- Colby cheese, a type developed in Wisconsin in 1874
- Cold pack cheese
- Cheesehead, a nickname for a person from Wisconsin, referring to the large volume of production of Wisconsin cheese
- "History of Cheese in Wisconsin". Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- Monica Davey, "Wisconsin’s Crown of Cheese Is Within California’s Reach", The New York Times, September 30, 2006.
- Karen Herzog, State keeps cheese crown: On taste, and volume, Wisconsin beats arch-rival California". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 29, 2008.
- Anne Marie Ames, Wisconsin Facing a Dairy Deficit", Janesville Gazette, April 25, 2011.
- "2015 Dairy Data: A Review of Wisconsin's Dairy Industry" (PDF). Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
- "Wisconsin Ag News – Annual Dairy Products" (PDF). USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. April 29, 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
- "Wisconsin Dairy data" (PDF). Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- "Masters program". Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- Apps, Jerold W. Cheese: The Making of a Wisconsin Tradition. Amherst, Wis.: Amherst Press, 1998.
- Emery, J. Q. "The Swiss Cheese Industry in Wisconsin", Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 10, no, 1 (September 1926): 42-52.
- Norton, James R. and Becca Dilley. The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.