Dick Groves
Editor, Cheese Reporter


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20 Years Of Dairy Production Extra, 20 Years Of Change

This week’s issue includes our annual Dairy Production Extra supplement, which provides an overview of key statistical dairy product production trends.

We’ve been publishing Dairy Production Extra for 20 years now (the first edition was actually included in our Feb. 10, 1995 issue), so we thought it would be interesting to look at how things have changed over the last two decades.

For one thing, we only publish Dairy Production Extra once a year now, in May. Back in 1995, we actually published three versions of DPE, the first in February, focusing on milk production (the lead story was headlined, “US Milk Production Continued Its Shift West, Southwest In ‘94”), the second in May, (the lead story was headlined “US Cheese Production, Led By American-Type, Mozzarella, Continued To Move West
In 1994”), and the third in August (the lead story was headlined “Western States Continue To Pace US Dairy Industry In Milk Production Increases”).

So what else has changed over the past 20 years? For one thing, just the sheer volume of production has increased tremendously. The second of 1995’s three DPEs reviewed cheese production trends, and noted that US cheese production in 1994 was a record 6.73 billion pounds.

In 2014, US cheese production was a record 11.45 billion pounds, or some 4.7 billion pounds higher than in 1994. Indeed, cheese production has set new records every year since we started publishing DPE, although in some years production increases were relatively small (output in 2001 was only about 2.6 million pounds higher than in 2000), while in other years production increases bordered on the spectacular (output in 2010 was almost 370 million pounds higher than in 2009).

For another thing, the US cheese production “mix” has changed considerably over the past two decades. Back in 1994, American-type cheeses accounted for about 44 percent of US cheese production, while Italian-type cheeses accounted for about 39 percent of US cheese output.

In 2014, Italian-type cheeses accounted for more than 43 percent of US cheese production, while American-type cheeses accounted for less than 40 percent of US cheese output.

Looked at another way, back in 1994, American-type cheese production exceeded Italian-type cheese output by about 355 million pounds. Last year, Italian-type cheese production exceeded American-type cheese output by about 415 million pounds.

US cheese production has also become much more diverse over the last two decades, although this growing diversity is only reflected partially in USDA’s production statistics. More specifically, USDA now reports production figures for such categories as Hispanic cheese (output of which totaled 250.3 million pounds last year), and for such varieties as Feta (production of which totaled 105.6 million pounds last year).

Interestingly, US production of “all other types” of cheese hasn’t changed much over the years; it totaled 150.8 million pounds back in 1994 and 154.2 million pounds last year. But back in 1994, the “all other types” category included such varieties as Hispanic cheeses, Feta and Gouda, which have grown to the point that they are now broken out separately.

And this production diversity extends beyond just the cheese industry. For example, whey protein isolate production back in 1994 was either non-existent or too small to be reported; last year, WPI output totaled 81.3 million pounds. The US imported quite a bit of milk protein concentrate back in 1994; it still imports a fair amount, but it also produced 126 million pounds of MPCs last year.

Also back in 1994, there were 449 plants producing cheese in the US. Last year, there were 536 plants producing cheese in the US.

Finally, what about that western shift that was really beginning to impact the dairy industry 20 years ago? Is that shift still taking place?

Well, the West has clearly expanded its share of US cheese and other dairy product production over the past two decades, but a lot of that occurred over the 1994-2004 period. In many ways, the trend has slowed considerably in recent years.

For example, back in 1994, the West’s share of US cheese production was around 25 percent. By 2004, the West’s share had climbed to almost 41 percent. Last year, the West accounted for 43.4 percent of US cheese production, or a couple of percentage points higher than a decade earlier.

Back in 1994, the top five cheese-producing states were, in order: Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania. In 2014, the leading states were Wisconsin, California, Idaho, New York and New Mexico. The West has gone from one of the top five states to three of the top five.

Another way to look at how the westward shift has evolved over the last two decades is to look at what’s happened with the two leading cheese-producing states, Wisconsin and California. Back in 1994, Wisconsin’s cheese production totaled just over 2 billion pounds, while California’s cheese output was 926 million pounds, a gap of about 1.1 billion pounds.

By 2004, Wisconsin’s cheese production had risen to almost 2.4 billion pounds, while California’s output was just under 2 billion pounds, a gap of about 364 million pounds. But last year, Wisconsin’s cheese output topped 2.9 billion pounds, while California’s production was 2.44 billion pounds, a gap of 466 million pounds.

The West has become a production powerhouse over the past 20 years, but other regions have proven more resilient than many expected two decades ago. DG

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