A massive surplus of cheese made in the United States has lowered prices in the market as more than a billion pounds sit in cold storage.
NPR reported 1.4 billion pounds of cheese are sitting in inventory amid an increase in milk production and lower milk consumption rates. Instead of dumping the unnecessary milk, producers are turning it into cheese — which has oversaturated the market.
Much of that cheese is processed versions such as string and pre-sliced cheese.
"What has changed — and changed fairly noticeably and fairly recently — is people are turning away from processed cheese," Cornell University professor of agricultural economics Andrew Novakovic told NPR.
"It's also the case that we're seeing increased sales of kind of more exotic, specialty, European-style cheeses. Some of those are made in the U.S. A lot of them aren't."
Another reason for the large surplus, Novakovic said, is because European and speciality cheeses often cost more, people are buying less cheese overall to save money.
Adding a wrinkle to the problem is the fact Americans are drinking far less milk than they used to — 149 pounds per capita in 2017, a significant decrease from the 247 pounds per capita in 1975.
The American Dairy Coalition wrote an opinion piece for the Wisconsin State Farmer this week and said U.S. dairy farmers "are in a crisis."
"Our milk price has dropped nearly 40 percent over the last four years. Cheese exports from the U.S. to Mexico are down more than 10 percent annually and shipments to China have fallen almost 65 percent annually," the story reads.
"If this isn't bad enough, the industry faces onerous and costly dairy regulations, as well as a shortage of workers — making it hard to find a way each day to stay in business."
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