MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin strengthened its hold as the nation's top cheese maker by producing a record 3.37 billion pounds last year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Wisconsin accounted for about 26 percent of the 12.7 billion pounds of cheese produced in the U.S. last year.
Wisconsin saw a 7 percent increase in Hispanic cheese production, a 5.5 percent increase of American cheese and a 3.7 percent increase in Italian cheese, Wisconsin State Journal reported . The state's overall cheese production increased 3.6 percent over the last year.
Cheddar production reached more than 700 million pounds, the highest total since 2000, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The production amount is a 6.5 percent increase from last year. Wisconsin makes 20 percent of the nation's American cheese, according to the NASS.
Increased Parmesan and mozzarella production pushed Italian cheese numbers to a record 1.7 billion pounds, the service said. The state produced 218 million pounds of Parmesan, an increase of 26.6 percent from last year. Mozzarella production increased by 1.5 percent to just over 1.1 billion pounds. Wisconsin produces 31.6 percent of the nation's Italian cheeses, according to the NASS.
Wisconsin's overall processed cheese production increased by almost 2 percent. But numbers show the state saw production decrease by 12.5 percent for processed cheese foods and spreads. There was also an 8.4 percent drop in Swiss cheese production.
It was the 16th consecutive year that Wisconsin topped its production record set the previous year, the NASS said.
Wisconsin has more than 130 cheese factories, the service said.