A record number of cheeses are entered in this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest.

The competition, set for March 6-8 in Madison, Wisconsin, will include 3,402 entries, 15 percent more than in 2016, the last time the biennial contest was held. Thirty-two states are represented in this year’s event.

“The World Championship Cheese Contest has grown steadily over the past two decades,” says Kirsten Strohmenger Henning, events manager the Madison-based Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the event’s host.  “We’re particularly excited to see the significant jump in entries from cheesemakers operating outside the United States.”

International entries for this year’s contest total 919, up 33 percent from 2016. In all, 26 countries will be represented.

The contest’s judging team consists of 55 experienced cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors and researchers, hailing from 20 countries and 15 U.S. states. The team is led by Chief Judge Robert Aschebrock and Chief Judge Emeritus Bill Schlinsog.

Assistant Chief Judges include Tim Czmowski of Agropur, Inc.; Stan Dietsche of Oshkosh Cheese Sales & Storage; Josef Hubatschek of ALPMA; Mariana Marques de Almeida of Ms. J and Co.; Jim Mueller of Mueller Consulting; and Sandy Toney of Masters Gallery Foods.  Brian Eggebrecht of Welcome Dairy, Inc. serves as Contest Committee Chairman.

Judges will evaluate 121 classes of dairy products, including new categories for traditional waxed and natural rinded cheddars, paneer, hard cheeses with natural rinds and various goat and sheep’s milk cheeses.  A gold, silver and bronze medal is awarded to top products in each class.