The U.S. is not among the world’s biggest cheese eaters. At 16.7 kg (36.8 pounds) per person annually, we barely made the top 20.
You can see that Denmark is at the top:
As for the other end, China is at the bottom:
Where are we going? To U.S. cheese problems.
The Cheese Meltdown
The U.S. is storing record amounts of cheese. While trade tensions have cut what we expected to send abroad, at home, our cheese tastes have shifted.
The trade side of the problem first takes us to mozzarella and provolone. Mexico and China are buying less because of their retaliatory tariffs. Explaining how he has been lowering some prices, one Wisconsin cheesemaker calls it a “nightmare.”
With cheddar, the situation is similar:
The problem here is that the milk we don’t drink becomes cheese. Then, it all gets worse because our taste for cheese has changed. We want more Parmesan from the EU and less processed cheese, less cheddar, and fewer Kraft American single slices.
At the same time, on the supply side, 2014’s higher prices created the incentive to produce more. Farmers raised more cows–a logical decision then and a disaster for many now.
Put it all together and you get an ever growing amount of cheese in storage:
Our Bottom Line: The Power of the Market
As recently as 2014, higher prices created the incentive to boost dairy production. Raising more cows, dairy farmers shifted their supply curve to the right. But then demand moved to the left as tariffs and taste decreased what we were willing and able to buy. The result is a lower equilibrium point (where the orange curves cross) and more cheese in storage:
What to do about the glut? Let’s eat more than 36.8 pounds of cheese a year.
My sources and more: Earlier this year we looked at a cheesier pizza solution to the cheese glut. Now, seeing this WSJ cheese headline, I decided to return. And from there, the articles started to multiply. Quartz discussed cheese eating countries, WSJ had the tariff impact, and Bloomberg dug into milk markets. Also, Cheese Market News was good for some insight.