The state of Wisconsin has a long and proud history of being a national leader in dairy production. This tradition is celebrated each year during June Dairy Month, which provides our state with an opportunity to showcase our dairy industry and celebrate our agricultural heritage.
The dairy industry accounts for nearly 40% of all Wisconsin agriculture jobs, employing 146,000 people or approximately 4.6% of the jobs in the state. Wisconsin dairies help to fuel our state’s economy at the rate of more than $39,000 per minute, with the average 250-cow dairy farm contributing over $1 million each year.
Wisconsin dairy producers generate over 26 billion pounds of milk each year from more than 1.25 million dairy cows. America’s Dairyland ranks first in the nation in cheese production, with 2.6 billion pounds produced annually, and second in butter, milk and the number of dairy cows. Numerous events are planned across the state to celebrate June Dairy Month. One in particular is my home county’s dairy breakfast!
The Iowa County Dairy Breakfast is being held tomorrow, June 2, at the Judd Farms outside of Dodgeville. Serving from 6:30-10:30am, I invite you to come and enjoy a hearty country breakfast featuring our famous scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, ice cream sundaes, yogurt and of course, lots of CHEESE. There will be live entertainment and a variety of great activities for kids! Adults $6; Children ages 4-10 $3; under 3 free.
For more information on other June Dairy Month events and festivities, visit http://www.wakeupwithdairy.com, http://www.dairydoingmore.org/ or the Wisconsin Department of Tourism website at http://www.travelwisconsin.com/.
This past week, Madison proudly hosted the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest. The event was held at the Monona Terrace and was an exclusive opportunity opened to the public. At the contest, attendees had the opportunity to taste 20 of the world’s best cheeses, meet 40 international judges from six continents and witness the final round of judging to determine the 2012 World Champion Cheese.
Wisconsin was well represented at the event. Cheesemakers attending and sampling their finest cheeses included: BelGioioso Cheese, Carr Valley Cheese, Holland’s Cheese, LaClare Farm, Montchevre, and Sartori. All of these Wisconsin cheesemakers were either past U.S. Champions or won at least two gold medals in the last World Championship Cheese Contest.
Many international cheesemakers were also in attendance. Nations such as Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom brought along their best products in hopes of taking home the winning title.
The three-day contest began Monday, with judges grading over 2,500 entries in 82 cheese and butter classes. Products were judged on flavor, texture, body and color. The winner in each class advanced to the semifinals, where the top 16 were chosen for Wednesday night’s finals.
Wisconsin cheese companies took top honors in 34 different classes, with four making it to the Sweet 16 round. They included Decatur Dairy, Brodhead, who topped both the Havarti class and Pepper Flavored Cheeses; Lactalis American Group, Belmont, Brie class; and Holland’s Family Cheese Team, Thorp, Smoked Soft & Semi-soft Cheeses.
However, in the end the top three winners of the World Championship Cheese Contest came from overseas. This year’s top winner was submitted by the FrieslandCampina cheese company from the Netherlands, which made a mild Gouda cheese. Adrian Mayer of Switzerland was the first runner-up with an entry in the Smear Ripened Semi-soft Cheeses category. And third place went to Karl Germann from Switzerland, who brought a product called Appenzeller Kaese.
Companies representing the Dairy State also took second place in 26 different categories and third place in 32 areas of the competition, continuously proving why Wisconsin is leading both the nation and world in quality and quantity of cheese production.
There is more than just one reason Wisconsin residents are often referred to as “Cheeseheads”. It could be due to the fact that cheese has been made and commercially sold in Wisconsin for more than 160 years, but in my opinion, it goes far beyond that.
In 1876, the first Wisconsin cheese plant was opened near Sheboygan. Since then, Wisconsin has come a long way, and is currently home to 129 cheese plants. Even more impressive, Wisconsin’s world-renowned cheesemakers produce over 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese, far more than any other state. I don’t think I’ve even come close to trying a quarter of them!
As the nation’s leader in cheese production in terms of both quantity and quality, 90% of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese. In addition, Wisconsin cheesemakers produce one out of every four pounds of cheese that is sold in the U.S.
It takes about 10 lbs. of milk just to make 1 lb. of cheese! Wisconsin cheesemakers take this seriously with producing over 2.6 billion pounds of cheese every year. If Wisconsin were a country, it would rank 4th in the world in terms of total cheese production, behind the U.S., Germany and France, and just ahead of Italy.
Continuing the bragging rights, Wisconsin cheese wins more awards than any other state or county in national and international cheese competitions. With this being said, Wisconsin cheesemakers have won 12 out of 16 “U.S. Champion” awards since the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest began in 1981.
In 2009, I served as the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board Intern. Throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to learn all about the Wisconsin dairy industry, especially cheese! Below is a picture of me with a wheel of my favorite Wisconsin cheese.
Wisconsin has been proudly promoting its agricultural heritage for more than 160 years. One can’t help but notice the farm scene shown on the upper corner of Wisconsin’s license plate or the cow head, ear of corn and wheel of cheese featured on the Wisconsin State Quarter.
Dating back to before Wisconsin was even granted statehood, dairying and cheesemaking were more than just a norm for Wisconsin farmers. Beginning in the 1830s, Wisconsin farm wives began making cheese in their kitchens as a way to store excess milk. By the 1900s, Wisconsin had not only become a top competitor in national cheese production, but was also home to the nation’s first dairy school located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
It wasn’t until the 1930s that Wisconsin was officially named “America’s Dairyland”, a nickname that was both deserving and significant for a state that had been leading the dairy industry for over a century.
Just as it was then, Wisconsin’s dairy industry continues to be the largest segment of Wisconsin agriculture. Each year, this industry contributes $26.5 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for nearly 40% of all Wisconsin agricultural related jobs. In addition, Wisconsin is nationally ranked 1st in cheese production and 2nd in both milk and butter production. Now that’s something to brag about!
The Wisconsin dairy industry not only represents those that live in Wisconsin, but it is also a defining factor in how others view our state as a whole. Serving as the nation’s leading dairy industry, is not something Wisconsinites take lightly. Wisconsin’s agriculturalists work hard to provide consumers with the safest and highest quality of products, upholding the true standards of “America’s Dairyland”.