Cheese Consumption in the U.S. is Falling

Written by on January 29, 2019

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Yes, Americans no longer have the stomach for cheese. This change in preferences has led to the United States accumulating the largest cheese stockpile in history.

And that stockpile is growing, say cheese makers.

The United States has a 1.4 billion-pound cheese surplus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The glut, which at 900,000 cubic yards is the largest in U.S. history, won’t be going away any time soon since Americans are abandoning processed cheese (the top selling cheese in the U.S.) in favor of more exotic and more expensive cheeses like those produced in Europe.

USDA said the surplus was caused by a build-up of milk inventories. Apart from consuming less cheese, Americans are also drinking less milk. Leftover milk is often processed into cheese to keep from spoiling.

Over the past 10 years, milk production jumped by 13 percent because of high prices. Then came the drop in milk consumption. According to the USDA, Americans drank just 149 pounds of milk per capita in 2017, down from 247 pounds in 1975.

The growing surplus of American-made cheese and milk means prices are falling. The current average price of whole milk is $15.12 per 100 pounds, which is much lower than the price required for dairy farmers to break even.

“It’s the same as it is for everything else: If you’ve got too much of something, the price has to go down until consumption rises,” said Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University.

Another problem is more and more American are showing a liking for European cheeses.

“What has changed — and changed fairly noticeably and fairly recently — is people are turning away from processed cheese,” said Novakovic. “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.”

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