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Cheese Facts

The hardness of a particular cheese depends on how long it has been aged. See more pictures of classic snacks.
2007 Photodisc

Are you a cheese fanatic? Here are some interesting facts about this popular dairy product that might surprise you.

­Archaeological surveys show that cheese was being made from the milk of cows and goats in Mesopotamia before 6000 B.C.

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Travelers from Asia are thought to have brought the art of cheese making to Europe, where the process was adapted and improved in European monasteries.

The Pilgrims included cheese in their supplies onboard the Mayflower in 1620.

The world's largest consumers of cheese include Greece (63 pounds per person each year), France (54 pounds), Iceland (53 pounds), Germany (48 pounds), Italy (44 pounds), the Netherlands (40 pounds), the United States (31 pounds), Australia (27 pounds), and Canada (26 pounds).

The United States produces more than 25 percent of the world's supply of cheese, approximately 9 billion pounds per year.

The only cheeses native to the United States are American, jack, brick, and colby. All other types are modeled after cheeses brought to the country by European settlers.

The top five cheese producers in the United States are Wisconsin (more than 2.4 billion pounds annually), California (2.1 billion pounds), Idaho (770.6 million pounds), New York (666.8 million pounds), and Minnesota (629.3 million pounds). These states account for 72 percent of the country's cheese production.

Processed American cheese was developed in 1915 by J. L. Kraft (founder of Kraft Foods) as an alternative to the traditional cheeses that had a short shelf life.

Pizza Hut uses about 300 million pounds of cheese per year. Find more curious cheese facts on the next page.

Because of their ability to produce large volumes of milk, butterfat, and protein, black-and-white (or sometimes red-and-white) Holsteins are the most popular dairy cows in the United States, making up 90 percent of the total herd.
Because of their ability to produce large volumes of milk, butterfat, and protein, black-and-white (or sometimes red-and-white) Holsteins are the most popular dairy cows in the United States, making up 90 percent of the total herd.
Jerry Dodrill/Getty Images
  • Someone who sells cheese professionally at a cheese shop or specialty food store is called a cheese monger.
  • In 1886, the University of Wisconsin introduced one of the country's first cheese-making education programs. Today, you can take cheese-making courses through a variety of university agricultural programs, dairy farms, and cheese factories. Jerry Dodrill/Getty Images Because of their ability to produce large volumes of milk, butterfat, and protein, black-and-white (or sometimes red-and-white) Holsteins are the most popular dairy cows in the United States, making up 90 percent of the total herd.
  • A one-ounce serving of cheese is about the size of four dice.
  • June is National Dairy Month, and the last week in June is National Cheese Week.
  • The Cheese Days celebration in Monroe, Wisconsin, has been held every other year since 1914. Highlights include a 400-pound wheel of Swiss cheese and the world's largest cheese fondue.
  • Founded in 1882, the Crowley Cheese Factory in Healdville, Vermont, is the nation's oldest cheese maker still in operation.
  • The Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, Wisconsin, is the only cheese factory in the country that still makes the famously stinky Limburger cheese.
  • Maytag Dairy Farms, maker of the award-winning Maytag Blue cheese, was founded by the same Iowa family that manufactures the popular home appliances.
  • The Sargento Cheese Company in Plymouth, Wisconsin, introduced packaged shredded cheese in 1958. In 1986, the company went even further to ensure the "spread of the shred" by introducing the resealable bag.

This article was adapted from "The Book of Incredible Information," published by West Side Publishing, a division of Publications International, Ltd.

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