Wisconsin continued to achieve brisk growth in specialty cheese production in 2013. The state produced 640 million pounds of specialty cheese, an increase of 29.0 million pounds over 2012, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Specialty cheese now accounts for 22 percent of Wisconsin's total cheese production.
Additionally, Wisconsin continues to be the No. 1 producer of specialty cheese in the U.S., crafting 46 percent of the nation’s total specialty cheese.
Of the state's 126 cheese plants, 93 manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese during 2013. Feta continued its steady increase, accounting for the largest share of specialty cheese production at 13 percent of the total. Other growing varieties include Hispanic types, gorgonzola, asiago, specialty cheddar and specialty colby.
"The specialty growth is an indicator of the state's historic commitment to quality and diversity in the cheese industry," said James Robson, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). "Specialty cheeses continue to be responsible for the growth in the total cheese category over recent years, and Wisconsin's artisan and specialty types have received a growing number of awards in domestic and international competitions, a tribute to the excellence of our state's cheesemakers."
Specialty cheese is defined as a value-added product that commands a premium price. The Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute also describes specialty products as having one or more unique qualities, which include exotic origin, particular processing or design, limited supply, unusual application or use and extraordinary packaging or channel of sale.