The Big Cheese Lie: No, The U.S. Isn’t Sitting On 1.4B Pound Surplus

ACROSS — Swatting down the story that the government is sitting on an enormous vault of cheese isn’t a full-time job for Cornell University ag economist Christopher Wolf. It just feels that way sometimes.

“I swear to you, it drives me insane, because I’ve had multiple conversations [with reporters] about it,” Wolf told as he unraveled what turned out to be a big cheese lie.

It’s a sweet enough story, and one time, it was true that the U.S. government snapped up cheese at a ridiculously low cost tied to early 20th century price levels and kept it in secret caves under Kansas City, , and other places in middle .

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Wolf, who hails from the No. 2 dairy-producing state of Wisconsin, has been in them. He was an impressionable high school student at the time, and his Future Farmers of America chapter took a bus tour through the cheese cave under Kansas City in the 1980s.

It’s also true that a January report shows 1.4 billion pounds of cheese in cold storage. But the government doesn’t own it. It’s the property of companies like Kraft, , Sopra and others that sell a lot of cheese, Wolf explained.

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The cheese is on ice, so to speak, because Americans love cheese and will quickly gobble it up. As a nation, we consume about 13.5 billion pounds of cheese a year, or about 40 pounds per person, Wolf said.

That’s nowhere near the amount of cheese consumed in and Italy, where “it’s just off the charts, twice as much, but we consume a lot more than we used to,” Wolf said, explaining that while 1.4 billion pounds of cheese, it’s only a fraction of what U.S. consumers eat every year.

‘No One Would Eat It’

The underground cheese vault myth evolved as grains of truth and pieces of history were conflated in stories that wondered what the government…


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