As of August 2022, the U.S. had 1.5 billion pounds of cheese in cold storage across the country. That’s around $3.4 billion worth of cheese.
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Source: Visual Capitalist

How Big is the U.S. Cheese Stockpile?

Graphic showing the amount of cheese the U.S. has stockpiled in cold storage

Using data from USDA, this graphic looks at just how big the U.S. cheese stockpile has gotten over the last few years, and compares it to notable landmarks to help put things into perspective.

But before diving into the data, we’ll take a step back to quickly explain why America’s cheese stockpile has gotten so big in the first place.

Why So Much Cheese?

Over the last 30 years, milk production in the U.S. has increased by 50%.

Yet, while milk production has climbed, milk consumption has declined. In 2004, Americans consumed the equivalent of about 0.57 cups of milk per day. By 2018, average milk consumption had dropped to 0.33 cup-equivalents.

In response to this predicament, the U.S. government and dairy companies have been purchasing the extra milk and storing it as cheese for years.

So, where does one store such a large amount of cheese? A sizable portion of the stockpile is stored in a massive underground warehouse (a former limestone quarry) outside of Springfield, Missouri.

The Stockpile Keeps Growing

Apart from a small dip in 2021 during the global pandemic, America’s stockpile of cheese has increased steadily over the last five years:

Date Total cheese in cold storage (billion pounds) Y-o-y change (%)
April 2018 1.35 3.8%
April 2019 1.40 3.7%
April 2020 1.48 5.7%
April 2021 1.45 -2.0%
April 2022 1.48 2.1%

Between April 2018 and April 2022, U.S. cheese holdings increased by 130 million pounds to reach 1.48 billion pounds. After climbing up to 1.52 billion pounds in July, the stockpile settled once again at 1.48 billion pounds at the end of August 2022.

Now, the U.S. cheese stockpile weighs more than the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Tower of Pisa, and the Great Sphinx of Giza—combined.

Is the Cheese Stockpile Here to Stay?

Attempts have been made to get rid of the cheese stockpile. Over the years, the government has established federal food welfare programs and encouraged milk consumption in schools throughout the country.

Yet, despite their best efforts to decrease the surplus, America’s cheese stockpile continues to grow.

As domestic consumers continue to decrease their milk consumption, and switch out their dairy milk for milk alternatives like almond or oat milk, how much bigger will this cheese stockpile get before the government comes up with an alternative solution to deal with its surplus of dairy?

Dairy farmers still reeling from floods have been given a helping hand, with the state and federal governments locking in funding for key projects to prepare for the next disaster.

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