With 26 percent of the nation’s total cheese production, Wisconsin maintained its ranking as the nation’s top cheese producing state in 2019, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
At 818 million pounds, specialty cheese accounted for 24 percent of Wisconsin’s total cheese production. This was an increase of 15.5 million pounds over 2018.
Ninety-six of the state’s 127 cheese plants manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese during 2019. Blue, Feta, Havarti, Hispanic types, specialty Mozzarella, and Parmesan Wheel remain the most popular varieties. Production of specialty varieties of Monterey Jack rose 40 percent over the previous year, while Asiago production was up 14 percent.
Wisconsin cheese makers are known for offering a wide variety of high quality specialty cheeses. A specialty cheese is a value-added product which commands a premium price. According to the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute, the nature of specialty cheese is derived from one or more unique qualities, such as exotic origin, particular processing or design, limited supply, unusual application or use, and extraordinary packaging or channel of sale. The common denominator is its very high quality, according to the institute.