For the past few years, US dairies have had a problem most of us only wish we had: Too much cheese. So much cheese has been made, in fact, that the government bought 11 million tons of it to distribute to food banks just two years ago. But their fiscal inability to stop making cheese is leading to a massive stockpile and a potential cheese-filled reckoning for American dairies.
This cheese backlog has been building for a while. The issue is simple: US dairies make a lot of milk, especially during the summer since cows eat more and have longer, more languid days. But Americans aren’t drinking that milk. In fact, American milk consumption has dropped from 30 gallons a year in the 1970s to 18 gallons just last year, and there’s no sign that’s going to turn around. If you have milk, and people won’t drink it, really your only option is to turn it into butter, yogurt, and above all cheese, especially since Americans eat a lot of cheese and are chomping on more of it every year.
It should give you an idea of how much milk is made that even our ravenous love of cheese products is outstripped by supply. How much supply? Try 1.39 billion pounds. That’s enough cheese, just in the backlog, for every American to eat the average of 23 pounds of cheese a year for about two years, and not run out. And, according to Food and Wine, the current trade problems are aggravating the issue:
And then there are Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, have which caused countries like Canada and Mexico to retaliate with their own taxes on Wisconsin cheese. As other nations work out trade agreements that grant each other more open access to their markets, the U.S. dairy industry is finding itself further isolated in an increasingly competitive global economy. Our cheese stockpile could reach crisis levels if more countries who have traditionally imported American dairy products turn elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the crisis might be here. Dairy prices are already so low it’s driving family farms out of business, and the more supply that piles up, the lower prices go. It’s going to take a lot more than just the government buying more cheese to fix the problems facing the dairy industry.
(via Food & Wine)