Once again, America’s Dairyland made the most cheese of any state in 2023. Roughly one-quarter of the 14.2 billion pounds of cheese produced in the U.S. last year was made in Wisconsin.

Most cheese production falls into the broad categories of Italian varieties or American varieties. Italian variety production in the U.S. was down slightly from 2022 and totaled 5.85 billion pounds, while American cheese production grew 3% to reach 5.84 billion pounds. Wisconsin topped both categories, churning out 28% of the country’s Italian-style cheese and 18% of our American-style cheese in 2023.

Still, 27% of the state’s cheese production fell into the category of specialty cheese, which is defined as a value-added product that commands a premium price. The unique attributes of a specialty cheese may cover its processing, design, packaging, use, origin, or channel of sale.

In all, 94 of Wisconsin’s 117 cheese plants produced at least one type of specialty cheese in 2023, reported USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Specialty cheeses totaled 942 million pounds, which was 13.7 million pounds and 1% higher than 2022.

Outside of the catch-all “other” category, the most-produced specialty cheese distinction in 2023 was Hispanic cheese. This may include varieties such as Queso Fresco, Cotija, and others. More than 130,000 pounds of Hispanic cheeses were made in the state in 2023, up 2% compared to 2022.

Other specialty cheeses that topped the 100,000-pound production level were Feta as well as Parmesan wheels, which realized 12% and 11% growth from 2022, respectively. The most production growth was observed in Farmers cheese, a fresh cheese, that was up 13% over 2022.

Specialty varieties of Cheddar were made by the greatest number of cheesemakers, with 40 plants turning out their own varieties. Additional specialty varieties made in the state by a significant number of producers according to NASS were Asiago, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Havarti, and Romano wheels.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
May 30, 2024
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