DATCP: Wisconsin leads the United States in Specialty Cheese Production

New statistics confirm the state’s steady increase in high-end cheese production

Contact: Robin Engel 608-224-5002 or Jeanne Carpenter 608-224-5115

WEYAUWEGA — State Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen today announced that Wisconsin cheese makers are leading America in crafting innovative, specialty cheeses. Specialty cheese production in 2005 rose 7 percent above the previous year, totaling 355 million pounds and accounting for 15 percent of the state’s total cheese production.

“I commend Wisconsin’s cheese makers for competing at the high end,” said Nilsestuen. “Our cheese makers are meeting consumer demands for bold flavors, signature cheeses and specialty products.”

The study released yesterday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service confirms the steady increase in Wisconsin’s specialty cheese sector. Specialty cheeses, a value-added product, command a premium price for their unique qualities. In 2003 specialty cheese accounted for 12 percent of the total cheese produced in the state.

Wisconsin cheese makers now produce more than 500 styles and types of cheeses, and 77 of the 115 cheese plants in Wisconsin are today manufacturing at least one type of specialty cheese.

Governor Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan to create jobs features a comprehensive Value-Added Dairy Initiative. “I want to recognize the Grow Wisconsin Dairy Team and the Dairy Business Innovation Center for their work in helping to grow artisan and specialty dairy businesses,” said Nilsestuen.

Nilsestuen made the announcement at Trega Foods in Weyauwega during Capital for the Day in Waupaca and Shawano counties. Trega Foods is a modern dairy plant that uses milk from hundreds of Wisconsin dairy farms to produce award-winning cheese products and whey products.

The state’s dairies help to fuel the Wisconsin economy at the rate of more than $39,000 per minute.